Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), Madagascar by Frank.Vassen, on Flickr

The aye-aye is a fascinating beast. In fact there’s so much that’s interesting about it that I’m finding it hard to contain myself to just one post. It’s a nocturnal primate that fills the same ecological niche as a woodpecker. That is, it can break the tree bark to get at the juicy insects inside. It has one stick thin finger that it uses to get at the insects. In its home in Madagascar it is considered alternately a sign of good fortune and a demon. To point the stick thin finger at a person is considered a death curse. It is most often killed on sight. This has led to its current state of near extinction.

But even more interesting than the mythology and the human interaction with aye aye – for me at least – is its phylogenetic classification. It’s a remarkable example of convergent evolution in that it has protruding, ever growing front teeth like rodents. Its head shape, eyes, ears and nostrils are liie those on cats. Its classification within primates has changed a couple of times in and around the family of lemurs. Current molecular evidence suggests that it might be an extant basil form to all lemurs. That means it might be one of the species all lemurs have evolved from, a living fossil. Which is pretty freaking cool!

aye-aye by amareta kelly, on Flickr