Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lemur Lessons : Learning to Forage

A young aye-aye learns to forage by watching it's elder eat.
Photo by David Haring, Duke Lemur Center Photographer and Registrar

Duke Lemur Center has three foci: conservation, research, and education, and humans aren't the only ones learning here. Ichabod, (See the earlier post about Ichabod) the young aye-aye born at the Duke Lemur Center this past summer, is still nursing, but he is watching Ardrey, his mother, eat. That is how he will learn both what to eat and how to eat it.

The next step will be stealing mom's food, and that is okay among aye-aye. In fact, even unrelated aye-aye will allow young to take food from them. This leniency continues into the young aye-aye's teen-aged years.

So Ichabod has plenty of time to learn the intricacies of tap foraging - the process by which aye-aye tap branches listening for hollow spots that may contain tasty insects. When those large ears pick up the hollow sound, an aye-aye can use it's incisors to pierce the wood and reach in with its specially designed digit to scoop out bugs or other taste treats.

If you would like to learn more about Duke Lemur Center's efforts in conservation, research, and education or you would like to support this work, click here.


  1. How cute! Ichabod is growing up so fast- By the time I get to visit NC (whenever that may be) and actually see him, he'll be all grown up!

    Aye-Ayes are such incredible animals. When I first got into lemurs I didn't really like them , but now I adore them! They really are beautiful animals once you get used to them. :)

  2. Eden, I hope you do get to come and see Ichabod. If you look on the Duke Lemur Center website and go under Animals, you can hear a recording of aye-aye vocalizations. The "eeep" sound Ichabod makes when he "wants his momma" is very dear. Okay, the scientists probably describe it differently, but to a communications person, it is very dear.

    I know what you mean about coming to like the way aye-aye look. The first one I saw in real life was startling. It was dark. The aye-aye was dark. I knew there stories about aye-aye and bad luck, and my thought was, "I can see why!" But look at that young aye-aye's face in the photo. Now that is endearing! Great eyes. Cute mouth. And those ears!