Deadwood Structural Properties May Influence Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) Extractive Foraging Behavior

Katharine E.T. Thompson, Richard J. Bankoff, Edward E. Louis, George H. Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The identification of critical, limited natural resources for different primate species is important for advancing our understanding of behavioral ecology and toward future conservation efforts. The aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is an Endangered nocturnal lemur with adaptations for accessing structurally defended foods: continuously growing incisors; an elongated, flexible middle finger; and a specialized auditory system. In some seasons, ca. 90% of the aye-aye’s diet consists of two structurally defended resources: 1) the larvae of wood boring insects, extracted after the aye-aye gnaws through decomposing bark (deadwood), and 2) the seeds of Canarium trees. Aye-ayes have very large individual home ranges relative to most other lemurs, possibly owing to limited resource availability. Identification of limiting dietary factor(s) is critical for our understanding of aye-aye behavioral ecology and future conservation efforts. To investigate whether aye-ayes equally access all deadwood resources within their range, we surveyed two 100 × 100 m forest plots within the territories of two aye-ayes at Sangasanga, Kianjavato, Madagascar. Only 2 of 150 deadwood specimens within the plots (1.3%) appeared to have been accessed by the aye-ayes. To test whether any external or internal deadwood properties explain aye-aye foraging preferences we recorded species, height and diameter, and quantified the internal tree density using a 3D acoustic tomograph for each foraged and nonforaged deadwood resource within the plots, plus 13 specimens (5 foraged and 8 nonforaged) outside the plots. We did not detect any statistically significant preferences for species, diameter, or height. However, results from the acoustic analysis tentatively indicated that aye-ayes are more likely to forage in trees with greater internal (≥6 cm from the bark) densities. This interior region may function as a sounding board in the tap-foraging process to help aye-ayes accurately identify potential grub-containing cavities in the outer 1–4 cm of deadwood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-295
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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