Episode 63 – Spotted Hyena: The Queen of Crunch

“…and today we’re talking about a pupper who’s not a pupper at all. But more on that in like a minute.”

The top dog isn’t always an alpha male. In fact, it isn’t even always a dog. All kinds of animals survive by forming social bonds and working as a team, but sometimes survival requires a feminine touch, and sometimes that touch is actually a bone crushing bite. The predators that prowl the African Savannah are in for some tough competition, but the winners get more than a trophy. They get to continue on in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Measure Up

Length: 95–165.8 cm (37–65 in) – 51 inches – How many hyenas go into the length of the great migration of wildebeest from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara in Kenya (1,800)? Hint: 1.7 million wildebeest travel, 500,000 calves are born, 250,000 die. Answer: 2,236,235 Hyena.

Female weight: 44.5–63.9 kg (98–141 lb) – 119 pounds – How many hyenas into the combined weight of the the wildebeest heard at the end of a migration (1,179,750,000 lbs) assuming all animals are adults? Hint: Blue Wildebeest are significant economic boons for the regions they inhabit. Tourists flock to safari sites with wildebeest to observe big game and the animals that hunt them. Answer: 9,913,865 female hyenas

Major Fact

Hyena are highly social animals with complex societal hierarchies

  • They may hunt on their own, but to take on larger prey and to compete with lions and African wild dogs, they need a pack.
  • Females are slightly larger on average than males and one female will represent the alpha.
  • The highest ranking male will be the alpha female’s mate.
  • However, even the alpha male is ranked lower than the alpha female.
  • The cubs of an alpha will also immediately achieve the highest rank, especially female cubs.
  • High-ranking females also pass on special genetic traits, including larger amounts of a hormone called androgen, which is usually seen in male animals.
  • Androgen is associated with aggression and cause hyenas to fight bitterly for food and dominance.
  • Unfortunately, the androgen damages female ovaries and makes it more difficult to conceive.

Hyena’s identify each other in two ways, by sound and smell.

  • They communicate with barks, crys, and laughing.
  • Laughing is a sign of stress and they usually make the sound when they encounter lions, other hyena clans, or other predators.
  • Low ranking hyenas may stress laugh when they are being investigated by a high rank female or he cubs.
  • If high ranking females don’t perceive total submission from lower ranking females or males, they will kill, maim, or exile the offender.
  • Individuals also have names. They make unique whooping sounds that made as an introduction or to identify themselves.
  • This also helps them coordinate hunting patterns and keep track of one another.
  • To greet each other, they lift their legs and smell under them, like when dogs smell each others butts.
  • From this, this they are able to tell if they are a member of the clan and their rank.

Males females select their mates and it’s nearly impossible for males to force females to mate.

  • Females have elongated bits similar to what is usually typically of males.
  • To mate, requires mutual cooperation.
  • However, this special organ complications birth.
  • The birth canal is elongated and first time mothers, often experiences injuries during labor.
  • These injuries can often be fatal.

Males from other clans are sought after over same-clan males, to ensure a healthy genetic diversity.

  • For that reason, males usually strike out on their own to find another clan.
  • Unfortunately, hyena clans are bitter rivals and approaching a new one is extremely dangerous.
  • To survive, the male has to show subservience and female has to be interested in him as a mate.


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