In the darkest reaches of Madagascar, one of the weirdest creatures on Earth has managed to strike fear into the hearts of the locals. It is not a predator and poses little risk to humans, but its alien appearance has given it an otherworldly reputation. That creature is the aye-aye, a primitive primate that sports an amalgamation of some of the most bizarre features in the animal kingdom. It has rat-like teeth, the ears of a bat, and slender fingers that would look at home in a David Lynch film.
But what are aye-ayes, and why are the natives afraid of them? These lonesome, nocturnal creatures are bizarre mammals that have been enveloped in superstition for generations. But the more you understand these creatures, the less terrifying they become. You'll come to appreciate the weird-looking aye-aye as one of the most unique animals in the world. These aye-aye facts can help illuminate some of the mysteries surrounding these misunderstood beings.
Because of their bizarre appearance and nocturnal habits, aye-ayes are viewed by Madagascar locals as an evil omen. While they are quite harmless to people, that doesn't stop superstitious farmers from killing them on site to avoid any curses the creatures may be holding. Some people even believe that a single aye-aye can turn the luck of an entire village. Unfortunately, the killing of aye-ayes for superstitious reasons has led to a large decline in their population.
Probably their freakiest feature, the fingers of an aye-aye are incredibly long and slender. These demonic digits allow aye-ayes to hunt for grub. Aye-ayes hunt for insect larvae hiding in tree trunks by tapping their middle finger against the bark, listening for hollow cavities with their powerful ears. They are the only primates known to use a form of echolocation to hunt, and they are quite successful at it. Once they locate a bug, they use their sturdy teeth to rip a hole in the bark. Then they use their middle finger, which is highly flexible, to fish out the tiny morsel from its hiding spot.
Aye-ayes are nocturnal, meaning they sleep throughout the day and come out to feed at night. They spend most of their days sleeping in nests they build for themselves in the tree, sometimes building several throughout their territory. At night, aye-ayes spend the majority of their time foraging for nuts, fruit, and fat bugs. They are mostly solitary creatures who can keep very large territories to themselves.
Aye-ayes ony interact when it is time to mate, and even those encounters are relatively brief and contentious. However, recent evidence is starting to challenge this idea, as some aye-ayes have been observed foraging together in the wild.
When aye-ayes were first discovered by European scientists, they were thought to be rodents instead of primates. This was because of their hardy teeth, unique in the primate world, which are extremely rodent-like. Indeed, aye-ayes are thought to be amongst the most primitive living primates, having much in common with early mammals. They are believed to have migrated to Madagascar 50 to 60 million years ago, and they still look like some kind of prehistoric mammal.
Their unique teeth never stop growing, but are worn down due to their heavy use in hunting. As seen in the video, aye-ayes bite through bark in their pursuit of food. Their sharp teeth also come in handy for getting into nuts and hard fruits.