Ultra-rare primate caught picking its nose on camera – and no-one knows why

A rare and odd-looking primate has been caught shoving its extremely long finger up its nose hole.

The aye-aye, a type of lemur heralding from Madagascar, has an 8cm long finger – and this particular specimen managed to get it all the way up.

Nose picking exists in a number of primate species, but the exact reason for the embarrassing act remains largely unknown.

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The habit runs in our DNA – 11 species of primates apart from humans have been known to slide a cheeky finger up their snouts in the past, a group of which the aye-aye is now proudly the newest member.

On the list are fan favourites like gorillas and chimpanzees.

Endangered, aye-ayes have six digits on each hand, including one not dissimilar to a thumb referred to as a pseudo thumb.

On the six-part paw is an extremely long finger that is normally used for getting grubs out of trees, or it turns out, to get grub out of their noses.

Scans have now found that the aye-aye's nose pick would be long enough for it to all the way up its nasal passage.

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Senior Curator in Charge of mammals at theNatural History Museumin London, Roberto Portela Miguez, said: “When I first saw this video, I was really struck by the nose picking. I've never heard of anything like it before outside of humans.

“It's a surprise because aye-ayes are quite an iconic species, so you would think it would have been reported somewhere before now.”

He added: “We were in for an even bigger surprise when we used CT scanning to see how the nose picking works internally, and the scan was mind-blowing.

“We were shocked from the reconstruction that the aye-aye's finger could reach through its nose almost to the back of its throat.”

The gold-mine findings were published in the Journal of Zoology looking at a specific aye-aye called Kali.

Dr Anne-Claire Fabre, the curator of mammals at the Naturhistorisches Museum der Burgergemeinde Bern, said: “To fit the entirety of its third finger into its nose is pretty impressive! I was trying to imagine where it was going, which helped inspire this paper.”

Still, though, the reasons for it remain unclear.

"We found that the behaviour tended to be reported in species that have a high level of dexterity with their fingers," Roberto told NHM.

"Non-primates may not possess this same dexterity to pick their nose, and so it may just be a phenomenon that occurs within us and our closely related species."

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