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Aye-aye captain

Perhaps one of the most peculiar species of primates, the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a nocturnal, arboreal insectivore is found only in Madagascar. It is believed that the common name for this species came from the "exclaim of surprise and astonishment" by the French naturalist Pierre Sonnerat at the sight of the animal. However, it was later pointed out that the name is quite similar to the Malagasy name for the animal "hai hai" [1].

Aye-aye by nomis-simon, [CC BY 2.0], via

Aye-ayes spend the majority of their lives in solitude in the canopies of the forests. The most notable characteristic of the aye-aye is their long, skeletal middle finger which is used to tap into trees to unearth larvae using a method called "tap foraging". The aye-aye is the only primate to use echo-location, and it's middle digit serves as it's primary sensory organ. Their odd appearance may have contributed to the superstition by some natives of Madagascar that they are an incredibly unlucky omen. Unfortunately this has led to many being killed onsite [3]. Coupled with deforestasion this has led to the aye-aye becoming endangered (see IUCN).

Today we share the genome assembly for the aye-aye, Daubentonia madagascariensis. This is a $1K genome assembly, with a contig N50 = 215 Kb and a scaffold N50 = 211 Mb. For assembly procedure details, please see our Methods page. We graciously thank the Duke Lemur Center for providing the sample used to generate this chromosome-length assembly. Please check out the interactive Juicbox.js session below to explore the 15 chromosomes of the aye-aye:

Upon its initial classification, the aye-aye was believed to be a kind of rodent. This was a understandable presumption, as the aye-aye has ever growing incisors that are characteristic of the order Rodentia. Their cat-like face also led to some debate whether the aye-aye should be a a felid. Eventually, it was established that aye-ayes are lemurs! For some preliminary analysis, we aligned the new chromosome-length aye-aye reference, Daubentonia_madagascariensis_HiC (2n=30) against the collared lemur assembly Eulemur_collaris_HiC (2n=50), see the dot plot below. There are a large number of rearrangements between the two genomes underlying the different chromosome count.

Whole genome alignment plot between the aye-aye, (Daubentonia_madagascariensis_HiC) (2n=30) against the collared lemur, (Eulemur_collaris_HiC).

We're not monkeying around here, this is the 6th Lemuroidea species we've released so far and the 20th primate overall! Check out these other $1K assemblies for the Guinea baboon (P. papio), the golden lion tamarin (L. rosalia), and the Patas monkey (E. patas). Remember to follow us on Twitter @thednazoo and subscribe to our mailing list below to keep up to date on our latest releases!

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