Skip to Main Content
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance logo
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library logo

Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development


Non-seasonal reproduction (Quinn and Wilson 2004; Sterling 1994a)

Reproductive behavior

  • Individuals may have multiple partners (Quinn and Wilson 2004)
    • Females mate with multiple partners (Sterling and Richard 1995)
  • Males cluster around a female; sleep and forage in proximity (Sterling 1994a)
    • Both males and females experience increased vocalization and scent-marking (Sterling 1994a; Winn 1994a)
      • Sniff and lick genitals of potential partners, observed in animals in managed care (Winn 1994a)
  • Copulation coincides with peak estrus swelling (see below) (Quinn and Wilson 2004; Winn 1994a)
    • Advances by males at other times may be rejected (Quinn and Wilson 2004)
    • Changes in female behavior mark receptivity (Winn 1994a)
      • Presenting
        • Female stands sideways next to male, her head turned toward him (Winn 1994a)
        • Female assumes a very still squat on a vertical branch next to the male, her head tucked down and forward (D Gibson personal communication)
    • Dorso-ventral mounting; male approaches female from behind and clasps her back (Winn 1994a)
      • In trees partners hang from an obliquely positioned branch, female grasps branch with all four feet and supports the weight of both; an uncommon position for a primate (Quinn and Wilson 2004; Winn 1994a)
      • On ground copulation is less successful (Winn 1994a)
    • Intromission lengthy; lasts nearly an hour (55-65 minutes) (Carroll and Haring 1994; Dixson 2012; Quinn and Wilson 2004; Sterling and Richard 1995)
      • Reports of shorter intromission believed to represent unsuccessful attempts
    • Pair often harassed by nearby males (Sterling and Richard 1995)



  • Estrus cycle
    • 21-65 days, mean c. 47-50 days (Winn 1994a; Quinn and Wilson 2004)
  • Signs of estrus
    • Changes in the size and color of vulva mark reproductive stage (Quinn and Wilson 2004; Winn 1994a)
      • In anestrous
        • Vulva small (c. 5-6 mm) and gray
      • In estrus
        • Vulva large (c. 25 mm) and red

Maternal care of offspring

  • Father does not assist with infant care (Carroll and Haring 1994)

Gestation & Birth


  • 158-172 days, mean c. 167 (Glander 1994; Quinn and Wilson 2004; Sterling 1994a)

Interval between births

  • 2-3 years, in the wild (Quinn and Wilson 2004)
    • Shorter periods possible in managed care (D. Gibson personal communication)
      • 449 days


  • Location of birth
    • Occurs within the nest (Feistner and Ashbourne 1994)
  • 1 infant (Winn 1994a)
    • Weight at birth
      • c. 90-140 g (Carroll and Haring 1994; Feistner and Ashbourne 1994; Glander 1994; Quinn and Wilson 2004)
    • Appearance at birth
      • Eyes green, ears floppy, and pelage similar to adult (Feistner and Ashbourne 1994; Quinn and Wilson 2004)

Life Stages


  • Development
    • Remain in or near the nest for 2-3 months after birth (Andriamasimanana 1994)
      • Social and motor skills develop slowly, progressing more quickly on leaving the nest (Winn 1994b)
      • Unsteady locomotor skill until > 2 months of age (Winn 1994b)
        • Achieve full locomotor skills by c. 9 months (Quinn and Wilson 2004; Winn 1994b)
    • Begin solid food c. 3 months (Carroll and Haring 1994; Winn 1989; Winn 1994b)
    • Lose baby/milk teeth c. 20 weeks of age (Quinn and Wilson 2004)
    • Weaned by 28 weeks (c. 6-7 months) of age, observation of individuals in managed care (Quinn and Wilson 2004; Winn 1989)
    • Growth rapid; nearly adult in size by 4-5 months (Andriamasimanana 1994; Quinn and Wilson 2004)
  • Care
    • Carried by mother from one sleeping location to another (Carroll and Haring 1994; Feistner and Ashbourne 1994)
      • Gently, held in the mouth, just behind her incisors (Carroll and Haring 1994)
    • Suckle for brief periods (Andriamasimanana 1994)
      • Mother stands (quadrupedal) or reclines on back (Andriamasimanana 1994; Winn 1989)
      • Milk white in color (Winn 1989)


  • Sexually mature between 8 and 36 months of age
    • Larger individuals mature at earlier ages (Winn 1994a)

Typical Life Expectancy

Managed care

  • No AZA estimates



  • Believed to be responsible for most mortality (Mittermeier et al. 2013)

Parasites and disease (from Junge and Sauther 2006 unless otherwise noted)

  • Information specific to the aye-aye is minimal
    • No major epizootics reported
  • Parasitic infections may lead to disease, though most cause little direct harm
    • Ectoparasites
      • Ticks (Haemophysalis lemuris), lice (Trichophylopterus babakotus), and mites
    • Endoparasites
      • Nematodes and pinworms, protozoans
  • Potential disease threats in wild lemurs
    • Malaria
    • West Nile virus (arbovirus)
    • Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii)
    • Murine typhus
    • Schistosomiasis
    • Angiostrongylus infection
    • Borreliosis (Lyme disease)
    • Rabies
    • Rift Valley Fever


  • Little known regarding natural predators
    • Infants may fall prey to snakes and raptors (Richard and Dewar 1991)
    • Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) known to prey on other lemur species (Richard and Dewar 1991)

Aye-aye Baby

a baby Aye-Aye

Infant aye-ayes weigh less than 1/3 lb at birth. They have big, green eyes and floppy ears; their sparse hair is much like that of an adult.

Image credit: © D Haring/Duke Lemur Center. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Carroll and Haring (1994)
Dixson (2012)
Feistner and Ashbourne (1994)
Gibson and Ivy (2013)
Glander (1994)
Han and Worobey (2012)
Junge and Sauther (2006)
Richard and Dewar (1991)
Quinn and Wilson (2004)
Sterling (1994a)
Sterling and Richard (1995)
Winn (1989)
Winn (1994a, b)

SDZWA Library Links