On the island of Madagascar, there is a creature crouching on a tree branch that looks like a cross between some kind of hairy rodent and a mangy raccoon.
The aye-aye is actually a lemur and is the world’s biggest nocturnal primate. These lemurs weigh four pounds and are 14 to 17 inches long.
Their bushy tails are 22 to 24 inches long. Aye-ayes spend the day sleeping in elaborate nests high up in the trees and traveling the forest canopy in search of food at night.
The diet of aye-ayes consists mainly of insects, grubs, nuts, and fruit. The most unusual characteristic of aye-ayes is their skeletal middle finger, which they use to tap on tree branches to hunt for grubs underneath the bark.
While tapping, they listen for echoes with their bat-like ears to locate the hollow spots in a tree where the grubs can be found. This process is called percussive foraging. Once an aye-aye has located the grubs, it will gnaw the bark and use its middle finger to hook its prey and pull them out.
The primate’s finger is remarkably unique. Not only can the finger be used to catch insects, but it can also scoop out the innards of coconuts. The aye-aye’s toes are also functional, allowing it to hang from branches.
Additionally, when aye-ayes feel threatened, their hairs stand on end, making them appear to have doubled in size, which effectively scares off predators.
Initially, researchers believed the aye-aye was a rodent due to its perpetually growing teeth. The teeth are usually used for chomping into trees, but they are strong enough to bite through a cinder block.
Unfortunately, aye-ayes are a threatened species and are listed as such by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.