Genome study to aid Madagascar lemurs

March 25, 2013 at 5:38 PM

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., March 25 (UPI) -- Scientists who've sequenced the genome of a type of endangered lemur living in Madagascar say it will help guide conservation efforts for the species.

The aye-aye, a lemur found only on the island country in the Indian Ocean, recently was reclassified as "endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a release from Penn State University reported Monday.

George H. Perry, a Penn State anthropology and biology professor, said the loss and fragmentation of natural forest habitats in Madagascar has raised concerns about the long-term viability of aye-ayes as a species.

"The aye-aye is one of the world's most unusual and fascinating animals," he said. "Aye-ayes use continuously growing incisors to gnaw through the bark of dead trees and then a long, thin, and flexible middle finger to extract insect larvae, filling the ecological niche of a woodpecker.

Edward Louis, director of Conservation Genetics at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, along with colleagues from Penn State and the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, worked to locate aye-ayes and collect DNA samples from three separate regions of Madagascar, in order to measure the biodiversity of aye-aye populations.

"We were looking to make use of new genomic-sequencing technologies to characterize patterns of genetic diversity among some of the surviving aye-aye populations, with an eye towards the prioritization of conservation efforts."

"Aye-ayes are nocturnal, solitary, and have very low population densities, making them difficult to study and sample in the wild," Louis said.

Related UPI Stories
Latest Headlines
Trending News
Seattle sea otter learns how to use an inhaler
Catholic conservatives wary of Pope's climate change message
Apple signals delivery of electric car by 2019, report says
Self-impregnated snake in Missouri has another 'virgin birth'
Ancient Roman village found in Germany