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.
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