Lemur Recorded Picking its Nose in Scientific First

A Madagascan lemur has been filmed picking its nose and eating it, the first time such behavior has been observed in the species.

The video is of a captive aye-aye named Kali who lives at the Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina. She was filmed using her unusually long nail to dig into her nasal cavity and then eating what was on it.

A study published in the Journal of Zoology revealed that the aye-aye lemur is prone to nose-picking, much like humans are.

In fact, 11 non-human primate species are known to indulge in the habit, including chimpanzees, macaques, and gorillas.

Aye-ayes are the world’s largest nocturnal primates that have rodent-like teeth which grow perpetually. They are classed as endangered.

After watching the footage of Kali picking her nose and subsequently licking the mucus off her fingers, researchers were inspired to investigate further.

“When I first saw this video, I was really struck by the nose picking,” Roberto Portela Miguez, the study’s co-author says.

“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.”

Aye-ayes typically use their long middle finger to dig out food from trees, but it seems to work quite well for digging into the depths of its own head.

Indeed, Professor Anne-Claire Fabre conducted a 3D anatomical analysis of the aye-aye’s head and founds its finger was going beyond its nose and into the sinus.

“I was really surprised to see this,” says Fabre. “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.”

“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,” adds Miguez.

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


Scientists remain unsure as to why humans and other primates pick their noses and try what they find.

“There is no scientific consensus about the potential costs of benefits of this behavior,” says the study’s author.