Rare Victorian Skeleton of a Madagascan Aye-Aye ‘Daubentonia Madegascariensis’
Rare Victorian Skeleton of a Madagascan Aye-Aye ‘Daubentonia Madegascariensis’

Rare Victorian Skeleton of a Madagascan Aye-Aye ‘Daubentonia Madegascariensis’

1800 to 1900 Madagascar

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An Unusual Rare Victorian Skeleton of a Madagascan Aye-Aye ‘Daubentonia Madegascariensis’ Showing its Hands with Unique Long Fingers and Large Strong Front Teeth
In later glass case
Late 19th Century

Size: 47.5cm high, 70.5cm wide, 32.5cm deep - 18¾ ins high, 27¾ ins wide, 12¾ ins deep
Provenance: Ex collection John Crichton-Stuart 3rd Marquess of Bute 1847 - 1900
Thence by descent, sold Christies Scotland 25th March 1996, The Bute Collection Lot 11
Ex Private collection of a Scottish Naturalist
The Aye-Aye looks like a lemur, which are a group of primitive primates now only found on the island of Madagascar, but it is unlike all the other lemurs, and is classified in a scientific family of its own. First described in 1782, it has an almost unique method of feeding that depends on three remarkable adaptations. The hands have long slender digits, but one of them is an extremely long finger that is used to tap gently along the tree branches whilst it listens with its remarkable, massive, bat-like and sensitive ears for the faint echoes that indicate a hole has been made by a wood-boring, grub feeding inside the timber. The Aye-Aye has teeth which are unique among primates, more like those of a rodent with large front incisors which grow continuously and that can gnaw through the toughest wood. Having located and uncovered the burrow of the insect it then uses its long thin finger to winkle out the grub which are beetle larvae, its favourite food.
For a long time the Aye-Aye was considered extinct, but it was rediscovered in 1957. However, they are now critically endangered and are confined to a few isolated small patches of dense rainforest. Their original natural habitats having been destroyed for farmland. Nocturnal, arboreal and odd-looking, the local populace regard them as malign spirits, but Gerald Durrell called the Aye-Aye ‘one of the most incredible creatures I have ever been privileged to meet’. (The Aye-Aye and I. Gerald Durrell.)
Bone, Glass, Wood, Fabric
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