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Large, black, sticky-out ears. Bulbous, orange eyes with a small pupil in the middle that gives a wild and intense stare.
The face is balding and there seems to be an off-putting lack of contour from forehead to nose.
The fur looks coarse, largely dark but speckled grey as if decorated by the dusty breath of an ancient, animated skeleton.
The fingers are dark, thin and bony, armed with claws like some crone.
All that's missing is a huge pair of bat wings and this peculiar beast would complete the nightmare. They don't have a huge pair of bat wings, though. They have a long, fuzzy tail instead.
To make matters worse, or maybe I should say "predictably enough", they are nocturnal tree dwellers. Clambering around the rainforest canopy in the dead of night, they spend their days in leafy nests. Being a lemur, a really weird lemur but a lemur nonetheless, they are from Madagascar. They were long thought to be some kind of even weirder rodent, a demon squirrel or something. This is because they have long, ever-growing front teeth that have to be controlled through gnawing. It doesn't get better does it. In fact it gets all the worse when you see the even longer, thinner and probably genuinely evil middle finger.
The truly astonishing thing is that the Aye-aye isn't actually designed to haunt human nightmares. That incredible finger is tapped against tree trunks and branches up to 8 times a second to find grubs. The Aye-aye puts its nose to the bark, squints its eyes like a watch maker and, with its ears swivelled toward that finger, it listens for the sound of a hollow beneath the surface. This holds the promise of some kind of wood boring grub. The Aye-aye can then gnaw into the wood and fish it out with the same horribly thin finger. This provides lots of protein, but Aye-ayes also eat fruit, nuts and nectar.
Aye-ayes are territorial, with males having much larger ranges than females. Female territories don't overlap with each other but males overlap with both females and other males. It seems that males can be surprisingly social with each other, though they are much more aggressive and competitive over mates. Females are also dominant over males, so it all seems quite complicated and interesting. Good job that female territories don't overlap or life could get a lot more complicated for the subordinate males.
It's fun to think of evil stuff. It's not so fun to believe it so much that you go out killing. There is an incredible amount of superstition surrounding the Aye-aye in Madagascar. Some say it's an omen of death. Some say if it points at you or looks at you, you die. Some say it creeps into people's houses as they sleep and use their finger to puncture the aorta and thus murder them. Some kill Aye-ayes on sight, a problem that gets worse due to habitat encroachment and Aye-ayes stealing fruit from plantations and villages.
The thing is, Aye-ayes are only about 40 centimetres (16 inches) long not including a tail that is even longer. Partial remains have been found of what looks like another kind of Aye-aye in Madagascar. One that died out less than 1,000 years ago. One that seems to have been about 1 metre long, excluding tail. Perhaps this is the one that had bat wings?
SAVE THE AYE-AYE!
After all, it could've been worse...
Image via Wikipedia