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Examining the Morphological and Behavioral Paradox of Aye-ayes in Torotorofotsy, Madagascar

  Aye-ayes feeding. Photos taken by Timothy Sefczek with a night-vision video camera

Timothy Sefczek, Spring 2016

With partial funding from PCI, my project studied the feeding, ranging, and positional behaviors of aye-ayes in the continuous forest of Torotorofotsy, Madagascar. Previous research on aye-aye populations suggested that either Canarium seeds (Iwano and Iwakawa 1988; Iwano 1991) or Ravenala nectar (Ancrenaz et al. 1994) is the aye-aye's critical resource. Invertebrates were said to be consumed in significant quantities only when other resources were unavailable (Sterling and McCreless 2006; Lambert 2007; Marshall and Wrangham 2007). However, all of these studies were conducted on introduced populations on the island of Nosy Mangabe (Iwano and Iwakawa 1988; Iwano 1991; Sterling 1994) or in disturbed habitats (Ancrenaz et al. 1994). Because primate behaviors can be altered by deforestation and small forest sizes (Irwin 2008; Chaves et al. 2012), it follows that these earlier-recorded aye-aye behaviors may not reflect those of naturally occurring populations in a continuous forest. My main objective was to determine the significance of invertebrates in the ecology of aye-ayes. I found that invertebrates are the aye-aye's most commonly consumed resource, especially those contained within live trees (Sefczek et al. 2017). Additionally, aye-aye home range sizes, 808 ha (1997 ac) for a female and 1586 ha (3919 ac) for a male, are larger than initially suggested (Sterling 1994), possibly due to the reliance of dispersed invertebrates as the main food source. Positional behaviors also appear to be largely adapted for invertebrate feeding, though results are still being analyzed.

    Tim Sefxzek with feild assistants  
  Timothy Sefczek (left) with his team of field assistants.

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