For the first time, an aye-aye lemur has been recorded picking its nose, the National History Museum in the U.K. said.
The primates from Madagascar have a long finger that can reach the back of its throat through its nose. The animal then licks off the mucus from its fingers. Researchers believe the aye-aye might like the texture and saltiness of mucus.
“'When I first saw this video, I was really struck by the nose picking,” said Roberto Portela Miguez, senior curator in charge of mammals at the National History Museum. “I've never heard of anything like it before outside of humans. It's a surprise because aye-ayes are quite an iconic species, so you would think it would have been reported somewhere before now.”
CT scanning showed just how deep the aye-aye’s finger went.
“'We were in for an even bigger surprise when we used CT scanning to see how the nose picking works internally, and the scan was mind-blowing,” said Miguez. “We were shocked from the reconstruction that the aye-aye's finger could reach through its nose almost to the back of its throat.”
About a dozen primates are known for picking their nose, including humans and chimpanzees.
“We found that the behavior tended to be reported in species that have a high level of dexterity with their fingers,” Miguez said. “Non-primates may not possess this same dexterity to pick their nose, and so it may just be a phenomenon that occurs within us and our closely related species.”
Scientists are trying to gain a better idea of why some primates like to nose-pick.
Unfortunately for the aye-ayes, they are highly endangered.
“Aye-ayes are highly endangered, and really need our help,” said Miguez. “Papers like this can hopefully help draw attention to the species, highlight how little we may know about them and get more people to support their conservation.”