Species of the week

Aye-aye, the largest nocturnal primate over the world

Scientific Name: Daubentonia madagascariensis

Common Name: Aye-aye

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Daubentoniidae

Average lifetime: about 20 years in favorable environmental and ecological conditions

Conservation status: Endangered (EN)

Population: trend to decrease


The individuals of this species initially were considered as insectivorous, due the importance of insects on its diet. However they are omnivorous, feeding on various types of food, especially fruits, nectar, seeds of trees from tehe genus Canarium, fungi and insect larvae in dead or fallen logs. The selection of food varies with the type of habitat in which the animal is and its availability.


Generally, this species has about 32 cm in case of males and 30.5 cm in case of females. The tail is about 50 cm and they can reach in average 2.5 to 5 kg when adult.


Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a lemur species (species belonging infra-order Lemuriformes) endemic of Madagascar Island, and is characterized by being the largest nocturnal primate species over the World. Individuals of this species present a dark color, with thicker hair and black with white tips on the dorsal part and in the top layer, and with white coloring on the ventral part and the lower layer. It has a pale and bleached face and black ears with about 9.6 cm in length. a dark It presents a ring around the eyes, and an internal membrane in the eyes forming the third eyelid which serves to moisten the eyes of the animal and protect against the wood when it is extracting larvae from it.

This species is also characterized by the presence on its forefeet, of a third (medium) thin digit, elongated and with greater flexibility, and a pair of relatively large incisors with continuous growth. These features are considered adaptations that allow the use of extractive foraging strategies for seeds and insect larvae hidden in cavities, such as, bark of trees and bamboo stalks.


Aye-aye is a species with greater adaptability in a variety of habitats. This species can be found in rainy primary forests, deciduous forests, dry forest and mangrove forests, and builds its nest in the top of trees. It can also be found in cultivated areas, without records of their occurrence in spiny deserts. Generally, its presence in several habitats is determined largely by its principal food source, the genus Canariums seeds. This species can live in different altitudes, from sea level to near 1,875 m above the sea level.



Daubentonia madagascariensis occurs exclusively in Madagascar, founded specifically on tropical forests of eastern Madagascar and on western Madagascar coastline, on Memaraha National Reserve.


Generally, individual of this species present a polygamous and agonistic behavior, in which the mating results of a dispute between males for females access. The females are polyandrous and can mate with several males in the same reproductive period. It seems that there is no restricted mating season and only one juvenile born at each time. Females begin breeding with three or four years, and there are evidences that they give birth every two to three years with babies of about 90 g. The gestation period lasts about 166 days.

The young remain in maternal nests during the first month after birth, and may extend up to two months. They begin to leave the nest in the third month.


The main threat of this species is the destruction of its natural habitat that is associated with the loss of its main food source (Canarium sp).

Conservation measures

Daubentonia madagascariensis is listed in Appendix I of CITES, and its occurrence is reported in numerous protected areas of Madagascar. Despite this occurrence, the records of its presence are often based on signs or tracks created during foraging. So it is difficult to determine the size and the population dynamics of this species. Therefore, there is an urgent need to carry out a systematic census for this important and emblematic species, with the main aim to develop an action plan for the conservation of this species.


  • Daubentonia madagascariensis is hunted in some areas of Madagascar as bush meat and is killed as a harbinger of evil or an animal of bad luck
  • It is considered a pest for certain crops, as its the case of coconut.


Perry, G. H., Reeves, D., Melsted, P., Ratan, A., Miller, W., Michelini, K., … & Gilad, Y. (2012). A genome sequence resource for the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), a nocturnal lemur from Madagascar. Genome biology and evolution4(2), 126-135.

Quinn, A., & Wilson, D. E. (2004). Daubentonia madagascariensis. Mammalian Species, 1-6.

Sefczek, T. M., Farris, Z. J., & Wright, P. C. (2012). Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) feeding strategies at Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar: an indirect sampling method. Folia Primatologica83(1), 1-10.

Picone, B., & Sineo, L. (2012). The phylogenetic position of Daubentonia madagascariensis (Gmelin, 1788; primates, Strepsirhini) as revealed by chromosomal analysis. Caryologia65(3), 223-228.