The Aye-Aye Lemur: Like Nothing Else on Earth

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Health Editor’s Note: To me this is such a uniquely adorable animal.  There may have been a few times in my life when I could have used extra fingers and ……hands…..Carol

Extra Thumb Discovered on Aye-Aye Lemurs, Giving These Primates Six Fingers

by Joshua Rapp Learn/Smithsonian.com

Aye-aye lemurs look a bit like gremlins, with pronounced, clawed middle fingers, and these primates’ hands have been fascinating scientists for years. New research shows that the little lemurs, ugly enough to rouse superstitions in their home range in Madagascar, sport an extra tiny thumb complete with fingerprints, giving these animals six fingers.



“It has the most amazing anatomy of any primate,” says Adam Hartstone-Rose, an associate professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University and the lead author of a study published today in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. “There’s nothing else on Earth like an aye-aye.”

Aye-ayes are a little bigger than your average house cat, with massive ears that look like a mix between a bat and a cow. The ears are equipped for echolocation, and aye-ayes are the largest nocturnal primates in the world, Hartstone-Rose says. They have giant incisors that never stop growing and are covered in wiry hair, and they have the largest brains of any living lemur species. Even their babies look like a version of the chupacabra—a blood sucking beast in Latin American folklore.

But despite all the aye-aye’s bizarre features, their hands are perhaps their strangest attribute. The four fingers are primary thumb are long and spindly. “It kind of looks like a cat walking on spiders,” Hartstone-Rose says.

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