Monday Organism: Strange Mammals!

This week’s Monday Organism is not going to be about evolution, and also, not going to be about one organism. Since I rather keep these posts non-technical (not an easy thing to do), I’m going to write a little exposee on two truly amazing mammals:  the Aye-Aye and the Flying Squirrel.

A.The Aye-Aye – Daubentonia madagascariensis

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The Aye-Aye is one of those rare occurences that can only happen in a place like Madagascar. That might not be 100% accurate, but the fact Madagascar is ecologically detached (for land animals, anyway) from mainland Africa has probably done some evolutionary magic to create the wondrous biota living there.

The Aye-Aye has a somewhat (for Primatology laymen anyway) esoteric taxonomy, it is a Strepsirrhine. Strepsirrhines are what can only be reasonably called “wet-nosed monkeys”, although the Aye-Aye, at least, has some attributes that make it quite unlike the normal “monkey image” in our head.

The Aye-Aye looks like a mix of a rodent, a squirrel, a monkey, and a demon. I say “demon” because the Aye-Aye is a nocturnal primate (and the largest known, at that) – which means he has quite large eyes that glow ominously at night (the presence of the Aye-Aye is considered ominous in Malagasy villages).

The most distinguishing feature in the Aye-Aye, however, is in fact his middle finger. The Aye-Aye’s have an elongated middle finger with an alarmingly developed “fingernail”, although this finger is distinct mainly due to its unusual, “evil-witch” bone-structure. This finger is used to forage food by probing tree-holes for grubs, seeds, etc. This is basically the same thing a woodpecker does, only with fingers!

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B. The Flying Squirrel – Pteromyini

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The Flying Squirrel is a not just an amazing animal, it’s also a visual (and intellectually painful) reply to the notorious creationist question: “what good is half a wing?”. Well, apparently, it’s a world of goodness, at least for the flying squirrel. The Flying Squirrel is a moniker for a family of species who all have the same distinct “gliding organ”: the Patagium: Flying Squirrels have an extension of skin on their back not unlike that of bats, which can be steered to control their gliding in the air (making them actually “gliders” and not really “flyers”, hence “half a wing”).  They also use their tales as stabilizing and to monitor their speed (it can be used for “braking” when the squirrel needs to “land”).

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8 Responses to “Monday Organism: Strange Mammals!”

  1. galia Says:

    amazing! who could invent such amazing creatures.. i love the aye aye’s hair. you made my morning good, thank you!

  2. freidenker85 Says:

    No inventor needed 🙂

    You want to tell me that this creature can poke holes into trees and the thing you like most about him is his HAIR? Pfft!

  3. galia Says:

    ok, his middle finger is cute too!

  4. freidenker85 Says:

    I’m surprised and delighted that you find him cute. Most people thought it was the ugliest little critter to walk the face of the earth.

  5. galia Says:

    here’s what my daughter (8 yrs old) said about him: “hu chamud beteruf, eize mami”.. so you see i’m not the only one.

  6. airtightnoodle Says:

    The Aye-aye…

    Maybe THAT’S the chupacabra… 😉

  7. freidenker85 Says:

    Wikipedia says it’s a South American legend, so I doubt it they imported aye-aye’s from Madagascar 😛

    Which reminds me. It’s Monday, organism time.

  8. Nessa Says:

    It does look like the chupacabra.

    I’ve seen these animals before on TV, but I’m glad you gave them a space in your monday organism section. They deserve it.

    So next time I want to talk about giving someone the middle finger, I can just say I’ve done an Aye-Aye.

    And I wish I could grow extensions of my skin. I want to glide. Of course I could just use something else human-made instead of permanently altering my body. The extensions could make it harder to type and then I wouldn’t be able to blog!

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