Professor Emeritus of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Education & Training
Ph.D., Rutgers University 1965
The aye-aye is one of the world's most endangered animals Its unusual foraging behavior presents a provocative challenge to those interested in the evolution, development and sensory-motor coordination of complex behavior as well as to those concerned wi th the captive breeding of endangered species. The aye-aye hunts for woodboring insect larvae by tapping its middle finger on the surface of dead trees. When a cavity is detected, it uses its razor-sharp incisors to gnaw away the wood. Our studies have focused on the aye-aye's capacity to form representations of the subsurface cavities and to exploit them most efficiently. Because of our successful breeding program, Duke has the largest colony of captive-bred aye-ayes in the world. This program has allowed us a unique opportunity to study the early development of the aye-aye's complex behavior patterns. Ultimately, this research is critical to the reintroduction of this species to protected areas of Madagascar.