Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Daubentonia É. Geoffroy St.-Hilaire, 1785

Prosimian genus to which the aye-aye belongs; one extant species. Found in low densities along the entire eastern coast of Madagascar and a few locations in the north and west. This species was thought to be almost extinct, but new methods of looking for nests in the 1990s revealed that there may be as many as 10 000 individuals, although they remain endangered. Originally placed among the rodents in the genus Sciurus because of several rodent-like (and nonprimate-like) traits, such as ever-growing incisors, dentin instead of enamel on the posterior surface of the incisors, lack of canines, claws on all digits except the hallux, and a bushy tail. They are reported to be very intelligent and have the highest brain-to-body ratio of the prosimians. An unusual feature of this animal is the extremely thin third digit of each fore paw that is used to probe into holes to extract insects under the bark of trees. An adaptation for feeding is the large pinnae, which are used to locate insects under the bark of trees. Arboreal. Nocturnal. Quadrupedal. Dental formula: 1.0.1.3/1.0.0.3; omnivorous with the diet ranging from insects and grubs to fruit and nuts. This animal is said to fill the woodpecker niche on Madagascar.

See Daubentoniidae.

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