By Jean-Paul Salamanca ( | First Posted: Mar 25, 2013 10:19 PM EDT

A new study reveals that aye-aye lemurs, like this one eating banana flowers, may be different after scientists sequenced the genome of the animal recently. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Upon a recent examination of the DNA of an endangered species of lemur, scientists have discovered that there are significant differences among the lemur population.

Scientists announced recently that they had completed sequencing of the lemur's genome and have discovered that the three known species of aye-aye lemur are more different than they were given credit for, as Nature World News reports.

It was originally thought that the three lemur species, found only in Madagascar, were the same.

Webb Miller, Penn State professor of biology and computer science and engineering, revealed in a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday that the populations of northern and eastern aye-aye lemurs have great genetic differences between them.

Lemur populations in the north and east parts of Madagascar are separated by only 160 miles, which make interbreeding with the two populations less likely, Miller notes. He added that the data that was collected indicates that lemurs were separated by distance for much further back than when humans first came to Madagascar some 2,300 years ago.

The species, which is hunted frequently, has recently been reclassified as "endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, according to a release from Penn State University Monday.

George H. Perry, a Penn State anthropology and biology professor, told UPI News that the loss and fragmentation of natural forest habitats in Madagascar have put lemurs in danger.

"The aye-aye is one of the world's most unusual and fascinating animals," he said. "Aye-ayes use continuously growing incisors to gnaw through the bark of dead trees and then a long, thin, and flexible middle finger to extract insect larvae, filling the ecological niche of a woodpecker.

According to Edward Louis, director of Conservation Genetics at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, scientists who were using new genome-sequencing tech to examine the diversity of the genes of living aye-aye lemur populations were doing so with the hopes that the information could lead to conserving and protecting the species.

"Aye-ayes are nocturnal, solitary, and have very low population densities, making them difficult to study and sample in the wild," Louis said.

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