Perspectives on Percussive Foraging in the Aye-Aye (Daubentonia Madagascariensis)

  • Carl J. Erickson


In 1858 Richard Owen learned that H.M. Sandwith would be traveling to Mauritius as the new Colonial Secretary. He urged Sandwith to visit neighboring Madagascar and bring back an aye-aye, dead or alive. Eventually the British Museum was to receive its specimen “immersed in a keg of colourless spirit” but not before Sandwith had examined the behavior of this peculiar animal in considerable detail. In March of 1859 he wrote to Owen of his observations:

“......bending forward his ears, and applying his nose close to the bark, he rapidly tapped the surface with the curious second (sic) digit, as a Woodpecker taps a tree, though with much less noise, from time to time inserting the slender finger into the wormholes as a surgeon would a probe.....I watched these proceedings with intense interest, and was much struck with the marvellous adaptation of the creature to its habits, shown by his acute hearing, which enables him aptly to distinguish the different tones emitted from the wood by his gentle tapping; his evidently acute sense of smell, aiding him in his search; ....the curious slender finger, unlike that of any other animal... he used alternately as a pleximeter, a probe, and a scoop.” (Owen, 1866; p. 38).


Access Hole Surface Thickness Forage Tree Excavation Behavior Subsurface Cavity 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl J. Erickson
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology Department - Experimental and Duke University Primate CenterDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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