Aye-Ayes Have “Color” Night-Vision

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Aye-ayes do not respond well to light, and you must never, ever feed them after midnight.

According to a new study conducted by Brian Verrelli a researcher at the Biodesign Institute, aye-ayes, a rare primate found only in Madagascar have the genes to see in color, even though they are completely nocturnal and have been for millenia. Why is this so significant? Verrelli and his…

colleagues study three genes in particular called opsins which are responsible for color vision in humans. Aye-ayes come from an ancient mammal strain, one that split away from monkeys and humans over 60 million years ago, and they are completely nocturnal.

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In Madagascar, aye-ayes are notorious for sneaking into cottages at night and stealing human babies…just kidding.

Prevailing scientific wisdom follows a “use it or lose it” mentality, meaning over the past x million years, the genes that allow for color vision in aye-ayes would degrade due to mutation because the completely nocturnal animals would not be using color vision, and thus undegraded opsins would not be selected as an evolutionary advantage.

After studying the DNA of eight aye-ayes, however, Verrelli was shocked to find that the opsins of bizarre creatures are not degrading at all. “In fact,” says Verrelli in this article in Science Daily, “For the green opsin gene, we did not find a single mutation in it. The opsin genes look to be absolutely fully functional, which is completely counter to how we had believed color vision evolved in nocturnal mammals.”

The ramifications of this finding have yet to be fleshed out, but they have certainly turned conventional wisdom on its head, at least for the study of opsins. Verrelli hopes to join with animal behaviorists to determine if the aye-ayes indeed have the power to see in color by day or by night.

Check out their grotesquely long (or as we might describe them, “evil”) fingers


  1. #1 llewelly
    September 11, 2007

    Why not describe their fingers as ‘slender, elegant, and beautiful?’

  2. #2 S. Fisher
    September 11, 2007

    As I recall aye-ayes eat mostly insects they pull out of trees with that elongated evil finger. If they also eat fruits and other colored plant foods perhaps they,ve retained the opsins to help them locate those foods. But night color vision? That would be something I have never considered. Fascinating stuff. The first picture looks awful Gollumesque (my Preeecious). Keep up the posts. I really enjoy your blog.

  3. #3 Andrew
    September 13, 2007

    hmmmm…. slender, elegant and beautiful… do you maybe mean in the same way as a severe burn victim?

  4. #4 Kay
    July 4, 2008

    I want one how do you get them

  5. #5 Radyolar
    May 19, 2009

    Thanks science blogs.. 🙂

  6. #6 amanda
    July 7, 2009

    Thanks for all the info. I took this quiz on facebook called “which terrifying creature are you?” and this was one of the answers. (not the one I got, I got the wolf eel)
    ANYWAY, I was glad to find some real information on them, so I didn’t have to rely on wikipedia:)
    They are soooo fascinating! Thanks again, and good luck on your research!

  7. #7 Kevin Mike
    September 4, 2009

    The aye-aye: with the face of a ferret, the teeth of a rodent, the ears of a bat, massive middle fingers and the hair of Albert Einstein, this lemur is an odd sight indeed.

  8. #8 istanbul evden eve nakliyat
    November 13, 2009

    what a great asset to your fingers or a tip I love the bat’s small and beautiful harıka beautiful güzeliharıkası 2009

  9. #9 hannah williamson
    November 27, 2009

    they are the most cutest but ugliest thingd i have ever seen in my life 🙂

  10. #10 alisha siefker
    March 27, 2010

    they are adorable in a creepy way, i wish you could adopt them or something they would be cool to have.

  11. #11 cemil
    August 3, 2010

    what they like creature aman çok korkuçlar

  12. #12 radyo dinle
    September 5, 2010

    could nice be like yes.

  13. #13 dinle
    October 23, 2010

    süper hayvanlar

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