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Researchers discover aye-aye’s "pseudothumb"
The aye-aye is considered one of the world’s strangest animals.

Primate has an extra digit that may help it to grip objects

Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered that aye-ayes possess tiny “psuedothumbs” which may help them to grip objects and move through trees.

The scientists were studying the tendons that lead to the aye-aye’s strange hands when they noticed that one of the tendons branched off to a small structure on the wrist.

Using traditional dissection imaging techniques, they discovered the structure comprised of both bone and cartilage, and has musculature that allows it to move in three directions - similar to that of a human thumb. The findings are published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.


“Using these digital techniques allows us to visualize these structures in three dimensions, and to understand the organization of the muscles which provide movement to the digit,” said Edwin Dickinson, who built the digital model of the anatomy and is the co-first author of the paper.


Co-author Adam Hartsone-Rose, said: “The pseudothumb is definitely more than just a nub. It has both a bone and cartilaginous extension and three distinct muscles that move it. The pseudothumb can wriggle in space and exert an amount of force equivalent to almost half the aye-aye’s body weight. So it would be quite useful for gripping.”

Native to Madagascar, the aye-aye is considered one of the world’s strangest animals. It is perhaps most well known for its long, slender finger that is used to find and spear grubs inside trees.


According to the researchers, the aye-aye may have developed the pseudothumb to compensate for its other, overspecialised fingers. Species such as the panda bear, for example, possess the same extra digit to aid in gripping because the standard bear paw lacks the dexterity to grasp objects.

Hartstone-Rose continues: “Some other primate species have reduced digits to aid in locomotion. The aye-aye is the first primate to dial digits up in the hand rather than dial them down. And it’s amazing that it’s been there the whole time, in this strangest of all primates, but no one has noticed it until now.” 

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Big Butterfly Count returns

News Story 1
 The world's biggest survey of butterflies is back for 2020!

Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count launches on Friday, 17 July and will run until Sunday 9 August. Members of the public can get involved by downloading the Big Butterfly Count App or recording results on a downloadable sheet available from bigbutterflycount.org/.

'It's a fantastic activity for people from three to 103 years and we'd encourage everyone to take 15 minutes in an appropriate outdoor space during sunny conditions to simply appreciate the nature around them and do their bit to help us understand butterfly populations,' said a Butterfly Conservation spokesperson. 

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WellVet reopens ticket sales to online conference platform

Following the success of its online conference, the organisers behind WellVet Weekend have re-opened ticket sales to allow new delegates to access session recordings and its online networking platform.

The day-long conference saw more than 360 veterinary professionals mix activity sessions with personal development CPD, all hosted within a virtual conference platform. Now, with more than 500 minutes of CPD available, the resource is being re-opened to allow full access to the session recordings until May 2021.

Sessions are aimed at providing delegates with a range of proactive wellbeing tools to explore to find ways of improving their mental and physical health. Tickets are limited in number and on sale at wellvet.co.uk until 30th August 2020.