If you think you have problemmes, then you need to walk a day in the bizarre skin of the aye-aye. Firstly, it is the last living member of its Linnaean family. Secondly, due to being the only one of its kind and being so absolutely strange-looking, the nocturnal aye-aye was mistaken first as a rodent. Thirdly, it was long considered a bad omen by the natives of Madagascar, the only place on earth where it exists in the wild and were thus outright slaughtered if they were ever seen. Lastly, they are critically endangered. This is a step above “mere” endangerment. In order to be qualified as “critically endangered”, a species must decrease in size by 80% within three generations. By stating a species is critically endangered, one is implying a fast pace towards extinction.
For the sake of biodiversity, the aye-aye must be conserved. Yet what features allow it to be another shade of “wacky wonderful” on our biodiversity colour palette?
1) Appearance: they have a course, dark brown coat flecked with long, white guard hairs.Their face is lighter, making the dark rings around their eyes pop out their buggy eyes out even more. Their head and long, bushy tail are disproportionately large to the rest of its body. The most unusual part of their appearance are their El Greco-like elongated digits, which possess extremely long, curved nails.
2) Middle Finger Appearance: Their middle digit is unfathomably long. This adaptation is thought to be useful to work in conjunction with their incisors to forage in dead wood to extract insect larvae. Their middle finger is also used as a drumstick to knock on wood. Using echolocation, which is a cutaneous sense or biological sonar, the returning echoes from the wood tapping are used to locate hidden larvae. The only other creature known to use echolocation this way is the New Guinean marsupial Dactylopsila palpator.
3) “Timeshares”: they are tree-dwellers that build nests from twigs and leaves located in the emergent and canopy layers (the higher layers) of the trees of the rain forest of Madagascar. Though they each share nests together and several can sleep in a single nest simultaneously, each animal has several nests, which they swap with one another from night to night.
4) Habitat: they mostly inhabit lowland rain forests along Madagasar’s east coast, but they have been found in other rainforests of the humid northwest. In addition to living in primary rainforests, the aye-aye lives in mangroves, thickets, and even human-made plantations. Their preference, though, are trees, as they make for faster travel. They have been known to walk on the ground in the event that there are gaps in the forest, which has been occurring more and more often due to rainforest loss.
Yet these amazingly unique creatures are still critically endangered. Yes, yes, of course, it is due to human involvement. The two largest influences are 1) habitat loss as the rainforest is cut down and 2) superstitious killings amongst the native people of Madagascar. Although is hard to modify cultural practices, even greater efforts must be made in order to derive a solution that is respectful to both the people and the aye-aye. It is a solution that must end the the looming extermination of the aye-aye.