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The spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta , also known as the laughing hyena , [3] is a hyena species , currently classed as the sole member of the genus Crocuta , native to Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is listed as being of least concern by the IUCN on account of its widespread range and large numbers estimated between 27, and 47, individuals. It is the only mammalian species to lack an external vaginal opening.

The spotted hyena is the most social of the Carnivora in that it has the largest group sizes and most complex social behaviours. Females provide only for their own cubs rather than assist each other, and males display no paternal care.

Spotted hyena society is matriarchal ; females are larger than males, and dominate them. The spotted hyena is a highly successful animal, being the most common large carnivore in Africa. Its success is due in part to its adaptability and opportunism ; it is primarily a hunter but may also scavenge , with the capacity to eat and digest skin, bone and other animal waste.

In functional terms, the spotted hyena makes the most efficient use of animal matter of all African carnivores. During a hunt, spotted hyenas often run through ungulate herds in order to select an individual to attack.

The spotted hyena has a long history of interaction with humanity ; depictions of the species exist from the Upper Paleolithic period, with carvings and paintings from the Lascaux and Chauvet Caves. In the former, the species is mostly regarded as ugly and cowardly, while in the latter, it is viewed as greedy, gluttonous, stupid, and foolish, yet powerful and potentially dangerous.

The majority of Western perceptions on the species can be found in the writings of Aristotle and Pliny the Elder , though in relatively unjudgemental form. Explicit, negative judgements occur in the Physiologus , where the animal is depicted as a hermaphrodite and grave-robber.

The spotted hyena's scientific name Crocuta , was once widely thought to be derived from the Latin loanword crocutus , which translates as "saffron-coloured one", in reference to the animal's fur colour. From Classical antiquity until the Renaissance , the spotted and striped hyena were either assumed to be the same species, or distinguished purely on geographical, rather than physical grounds.

Hiob Ludolf , in his Historia aethiopica , was the first to clearly distinguish the Crocuta from Hyaena on account of physical, as well as geographical grounds, though he never had any first hand experience of the species, having gotten his accounts from an Ethiopian intermediary.

The first detailed first-hand descriptions of the spotted hyena by Europeans come from Willem Bosman and Peter Kolbe. Bosman, a Dutch tradesman who worked for the Dutch West India Company at the Gold Coast modern day Ghana from —, wrote of " Jakhals, of Boshond " jackals or woodland dogs whose physical descriptions match the spotted hyena. Kolben, a German mathematician and astronomer who worked for the Dutch East India Company in the Cape of Good Hope from —, described the spotted hyena in great detail, but referred to it as a "tigerwolf", because the settlers in southern Africa did not know of hyenas, and thus labelled them as "wolves".

Bosman and Kolben's descriptions went largely unnoticed until , when the Welsh naturalist Thomas Pennant , in his Synopsis of Quadrupeds , used the descriptions, as well as his personal experience with a captive specimen, as a basis for consistently differentiating the spotted hyena from the striped. The description given by Pennant was precise enough to be included by Johann Erxleben in his Systema regni animalis by simply translating Pennant's text into Latin.

Crocuta was finally recognised as a separate genus from Hyaena in Several languages of Africa lack species specific names for hyenas: In other languages, other species may simply be termed "small spotted hyena", such as in Swahili, where the spotted hyena is termed fisi and the aardwolf fisi ndogo.

Unlike the striped hyena, for which a number of subspecies were proposed in light of its extensive modern range, the spotted hyena is a genuinely variable species, both temporally and spatially. Its range once encompassed almost all of Africa and Eurasia , and displayed a large degree of morphological geographic variation, which led to an equally extensive set of specific and subspecific epithets. It was gradually realised that all of this variation could be applied to individual differences in a single subspecies.

In , biologist L. Harrison Matthews demonstrated through comparisons between a large selection of spotted hyena skulls from Tanzania that all the variation seen in the then recognised subspecies could also be found in a single population, with the only set of characters standing out being pelage which is subject to a high degree of individual variation and size which is subject to Bergmann's Rule.

When fossils are taken into consideration, the species displayed even greater variation than it does in modern times, and a number of these named fossil species have since been classed as synonymous with Crocuta crocuta , with firm evidence of there being more than one species within the genus Crocuta still lacking. The earliest migration of spotted hyenas from Africa to Eurasia began less than 3.

The second migration of spotted hyenas occurred less than 1. The third spotted hyena migration took place 0. Unlike other African carnivores, with the exception of the leopard , there is no evidence to suggest that spotted hyenas underwent a genetic bottleneck during the Pleistocene.

The ancestors of the genus Crocuta diverged from Hyaena the genus of striped and brown hyenas 10 million years ago. At one point in their evolution , spotted hyenas developed sharp carnassials behind their crushing premolars; this rendered waiting for their prey to die no longer a necessity, as is the case for brown and striped hyenas, and thus became pack hunters as well as scavengers. They began forming increasingly larger territories, necessitated by the fact that their prey was often migratory, and long chases in a small territory would have caused them to encroach into another clan's land.

As there is no evidence of environmental change being responsible, it is likely that the giant short-faced hyena became extinct due to competition with the spotted hyena. The spotted hyena has a strong and well developed neck and forequarters, but relatively underdeveloped hindquarters. The rump is rounded rather than angular, which prevents attackers coming from behind from getting a firm grip on it.

In contrast to the striped hyena, the ears of the spotted hyena are rounded rather than pointed. Each foot has four digits, which are webbed and armed with short, stout and blunt claws. The paw-pads are broad and very flat, with the whole undersurface of the foot around them being naked. These glands produce a white, creamy secretion which is pasted onto grass stalks by everting the rectum. The odour of this secretion is very strong, smelling of boiling cheap soap or burning, and can be detected by humans several metres downwind.

In contrast, a lion's heart makes up only 0. The skull of the spotted hyena differs from that of the striped hyena by its much greater size and narrower sagittal crest. For its size, the spotted hyena has one of the most powerfully built skulls among the Carnivora.

The spotted hyena also has its carnassials situated behind its bone-crushing premolars, the position of which allows it to crush bone with its premolars without blunting the carnassials.

The spotted hyena is the largest extant member of the Hyaenidae. Spotted hyenas in Zambia tend to be heavier, with males weighing on average Fur colour varies greatly and changes with age. The spots, which are of variable distinction, may be reddish, deep brown or almost blackish. A less distinct spot pattern is present on the legs and belly but not on the throat and chest.

A set of five, pale and barely distinct bands replace the spots on the back and sides of the neck. A broad, medial band is present on the back of the neck, and is lengthened into a forward facing crest. The crest is mostly reddish-brown in colour. The crown and upper part of the face is brownish, save for a white band above both eyes, though the front of the eyes, the area around the rhinarium, the lips and the back portion of the chin are all blackish.

The limbs are spotted, though the feet vary in colour, from light brown to blackish. The genitalia of the female closely resembles that of the male; the clitoris is shaped and positioned like a penis, a pseudo-penis , and is capable of erection.

The female also possesses no external vagina vaginal opening , as the labia are fused to form a pseudo- scrotum. The pseudo-penis is traversed to its tip by a central urogenital canal, through which the female urinates, copulates and gives birth.

After giving birth , the pseudo-penis is stretched, and loses many of its original aspects; it becomes a slack-walled and reduced prepuce with an enlarged orifice with split lips. Spotted hyenas are social animals which live in large communities referred to as " clans " which can consist of at most 80 individuals.

The clan is a fission-fusion society , in which clan-members do not often remain together, but may forage alone or in small groups. Although individual spotted hyenas only care for their own young, and males take no part in raising their young, cubs are able to identify relatives as distantly related as great-aunts. Also, males associate more closely with their own daughters rather than unrelated cubs, and the latter favour their fathers by acting less aggressively toward them.

Spotted hyena societies are more complex than those of other carnivorous mammals, and are remarkably similar to those of cercopithecine primates in respect to group size, structure, competition and cooperation.

Like cercopithecine primates, spotted hyenas use multiple sensory modalities, recognise individual conspecifics, are conscious that some clan-mates may be more reliable than others, recognise third-party kin and rank relationships among clan-mates, and adaptively use this knowledge during social decision making.

Also, like cercopithecine primates, dominance ranks in hyena societies are not correlated with size or aggression, but with ally networks.

However, rank reversals and overthrows in spotted hyena clans are very rare. Female hyenas are more flexible than males in their social bonding preferences. Home ranges are defended through vocal displays, scent marking and boundary patrols.

Clan boundaries are usually respected; hyenas chasing prey have been observed to stop dead in their tracks once their prey crosses into another clan's range. Hyenas will however ignore clan boundaries in times of food shortage.

Males are more likely to enter another clan's territory than females are, as they are less attached to their natal group and will leave it when in search of a mate. Hyenas travelling in another clan's home range typically exhibit bodily postures associated with fear, particularly when meeting other hyenas.

An intruder can be accepted into another clan after a long period of time if it persists in wandering into the clan's territory, dens or kills.

The spotted hyena is a non-seasonal breeder, though a birth peak does occur during the wet season. Females are polyestrus, with an estrus period lasting two weeks. Members of both sexes may copulate with several mates over the course of several years.

Older females show a similar preference, with the addition of preferring males with whom they have had long and friendly prior relationships. These unusual traits make mating more laborious for the male than in other mammals, while also ensuring that rape is physically impossible.

Once this is accomplished, a typical mammalian mating posture is adopted. The length of the gestation period tends to vary greatly, though days is the average length of time.

Cubs are born with soft, brownish black hair, and weigh 1. Also, cubs will attack each other shortly after birth. This is particularly apparent in same sexed litters, and can result in the death of the weaker cub.

Male cubs which survive grow faster and are likelier to achieve reproductive dominance, while female survivors eliminate rivals for dominance in their natal clan. Spotted hyenas exhibit adult behaviours very early in life; cubs have been observed to ritually sniff each other and mark their living space before the age of one month.

Within ten days of birth, they are able to move at considerable speed. Cubs begin to lose the black coat and develop the spotted, lighter coloured pelage of the adults at 2—3 months. They begin to exhibit hunting behaviours at the age of eight months, and will begin fully participating in group hunts after their first year. The average lifespan in zoos is 12 years, with a maximum of 25 years. The clan's social life revolves around a communal den.

While some clans may use particular den sites for years, others may use several different dens within a year or several den sites simultaneously.

In the rocky areas of East Africa and Congo, spotted hyenas use caves as dens, while those in the Serengeti use kopjes as resting areas in daylight hours.

Dens have large bare patches around their entrances, where hyenas move or lie down on.

/p>

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It is the only mammalian species to lack an external vaginal opening. The spotted hyena is the most social of the Carnivora in that it has the largest group sizes and most complex social behaviours.

Females provide only for their own cubs rather than assist each other, and males display no paternal care. Spotted hyena society is matriarchal ; females are larger than males, and dominate them. The spotted hyena is a highly successful animal, being the most common large carnivore in Africa. Its success is due in part to its adaptability and opportunism ; it is primarily a hunter but may also scavenge , with the capacity to eat and digest skin, bone and other animal waste.

In functional terms, the spotted hyena makes the most efficient use of animal matter of all African carnivores. During a hunt, spotted hyenas often run through ungulate herds in order to select an individual to attack. The spotted hyena has a long history of interaction with humanity ; depictions of the species exist from the Upper Paleolithic period, with carvings and paintings from the Lascaux and Chauvet Caves.

In the former, the species is mostly regarded as ugly and cowardly, while in the latter, it is viewed as greedy, gluttonous, stupid, and foolish, yet powerful and potentially dangerous. The majority of Western perceptions on the species can be found in the writings of Aristotle and Pliny the Elder , though in relatively unjudgemental form.

Explicit, negative judgements occur in the Physiologus , where the animal is depicted as a hermaphrodite and grave-robber. The spotted hyena's scientific name Crocuta , was once widely thought to be derived from the Latin loanword crocutus , which translates as "saffron-coloured one", in reference to the animal's fur colour. From Classical antiquity until the Renaissance , the spotted and striped hyena were either assumed to be the same species, or distinguished purely on geographical, rather than physical grounds.

Hiob Ludolf , in his Historia aethiopica , was the first to clearly distinguish the Crocuta from Hyaena on account of physical, as well as geographical grounds, though he never had any first hand experience of the species, having gotten his accounts from an Ethiopian intermediary.

The first detailed first-hand descriptions of the spotted hyena by Europeans come from Willem Bosman and Peter Kolbe.

Bosman, a Dutch tradesman who worked for the Dutch West India Company at the Gold Coast modern day Ghana from —, wrote of " Jakhals, of Boshond " jackals or woodland dogs whose physical descriptions match the spotted hyena. Kolben, a German mathematician and astronomer who worked for the Dutch East India Company in the Cape of Good Hope from —, described the spotted hyena in great detail, but referred to it as a "tigerwolf", because the settlers in southern Africa did not know of hyenas, and thus labelled them as "wolves".

Bosman and Kolben's descriptions went largely unnoticed until , when the Welsh naturalist Thomas Pennant , in his Synopsis of Quadrupeds , used the descriptions, as well as his personal experience with a captive specimen, as a basis for consistently differentiating the spotted hyena from the striped.

The description given by Pennant was precise enough to be included by Johann Erxleben in his Systema regni animalis by simply translating Pennant's text into Latin. Crocuta was finally recognised as a separate genus from Hyaena in Several languages of Africa lack species specific names for hyenas: In other languages, other species may simply be termed "small spotted hyena", such as in Swahili, where the spotted hyena is termed fisi and the aardwolf fisi ndogo.

Unlike the striped hyena, for which a number of subspecies were proposed in light of its extensive modern range, the spotted hyena is a genuinely variable species, both temporally and spatially. Its range once encompassed almost all of Africa and Eurasia , and displayed a large degree of morphological geographic variation, which led to an equally extensive set of specific and subspecific epithets. It was gradually realised that all of this variation could be applied to individual differences in a single subspecies.

In , biologist L. Harrison Matthews demonstrated through comparisons between a large selection of spotted hyena skulls from Tanzania that all the variation seen in the then recognised subspecies could also be found in a single population, with the only set of characters standing out being pelage which is subject to a high degree of individual variation and size which is subject to Bergmann's Rule.

When fossils are taken into consideration, the species displayed even greater variation than it does in modern times, and a number of these named fossil species have since been classed as synonymous with Crocuta crocuta , with firm evidence of there being more than one species within the genus Crocuta still lacking. The earliest migration of spotted hyenas from Africa to Eurasia began less than 3. The second migration of spotted hyenas occurred less than 1.

The third spotted hyena migration took place 0. Unlike other African carnivores, with the exception of the leopard , there is no evidence to suggest that spotted hyenas underwent a genetic bottleneck during the Pleistocene. The ancestors of the genus Crocuta diverged from Hyaena the genus of striped and brown hyenas 10 million years ago. At one point in their evolution , spotted hyenas developed sharp carnassials behind their crushing premolars; this rendered waiting for their prey to die no longer a necessity, as is the case for brown and striped hyenas, and thus became pack hunters as well as scavengers.

They began forming increasingly larger territories, necessitated by the fact that their prey was often migratory, and long chases in a small territory would have caused them to encroach into another clan's land.

As there is no evidence of environmental change being responsible, it is likely that the giant short-faced hyena became extinct due to competition with the spotted hyena.

The spotted hyena has a strong and well developed neck and forequarters, but relatively underdeveloped hindquarters. The rump is rounded rather than angular, which prevents attackers coming from behind from getting a firm grip on it. In contrast to the striped hyena, the ears of the spotted hyena are rounded rather than pointed.

Each foot has four digits, which are webbed and armed with short, stout and blunt claws. The paw-pads are broad and very flat, with the whole undersurface of the foot around them being naked. These glands produce a white, creamy secretion which is pasted onto grass stalks by everting the rectum. The odour of this secretion is very strong, smelling of boiling cheap soap or burning, and can be detected by humans several metres downwind.

In contrast, a lion's heart makes up only 0. The skull of the spotted hyena differs from that of the striped hyena by its much greater size and narrower sagittal crest. For its size, the spotted hyena has one of the most powerfully built skulls among the Carnivora. The spotted hyena also has its carnassials situated behind its bone-crushing premolars, the position of which allows it to crush bone with its premolars without blunting the carnassials.

The spotted hyena is the largest extant member of the Hyaenidae. Spotted hyenas in Zambia tend to be heavier, with males weighing on average Fur colour varies greatly and changes with age. The spots, which are of variable distinction, may be reddish, deep brown or almost blackish. A less distinct spot pattern is present on the legs and belly but not on the throat and chest.

A set of five, pale and barely distinct bands replace the spots on the back and sides of the neck. A broad, medial band is present on the back of the neck, and is lengthened into a forward facing crest. The crest is mostly reddish-brown in colour. The crown and upper part of the face is brownish, save for a white band above both eyes, though the front of the eyes, the area around the rhinarium, the lips and the back portion of the chin are all blackish.

The limbs are spotted, though the feet vary in colour, from light brown to blackish. The genitalia of the female closely resembles that of the male; the clitoris is shaped and positioned like a penis, a pseudo-penis , and is capable of erection. The female also possesses no external vagina vaginal opening , as the labia are fused to form a pseudo- scrotum. The pseudo-penis is traversed to its tip by a central urogenital canal, through which the female urinates, copulates and gives birth.

After giving birth , the pseudo-penis is stretched, and loses many of its original aspects; it becomes a slack-walled and reduced prepuce with an enlarged orifice with split lips. Spotted hyenas are social animals which live in large communities referred to as " clans " which can consist of at most 80 individuals.

The clan is a fission-fusion society , in which clan-members do not often remain together, but may forage alone or in small groups. Although individual spotted hyenas only care for their own young, and males take no part in raising their young, cubs are able to identify relatives as distantly related as great-aunts.

Also, males associate more closely with their own daughters rather than unrelated cubs, and the latter favour their fathers by acting less aggressively toward them. Spotted hyena societies are more complex than those of other carnivorous mammals, and are remarkably similar to those of cercopithecine primates in respect to group size, structure, competition and cooperation. Like cercopithecine primates, spotted hyenas use multiple sensory modalities, recognise individual conspecifics, are conscious that some clan-mates may be more reliable than others, recognise third-party kin and rank relationships among clan-mates, and adaptively use this knowledge during social decision making.

Also, like cercopithecine primates, dominance ranks in hyena societies are not correlated with size or aggression, but with ally networks.

However, rank reversals and overthrows in spotted hyena clans are very rare. Female hyenas are more flexible than males in their social bonding preferences.

Home ranges are defended through vocal displays, scent marking and boundary patrols. Clan boundaries are usually respected; hyenas chasing prey have been observed to stop dead in their tracks once their prey crosses into another clan's range.

Hyenas will however ignore clan boundaries in times of food shortage. Males are more likely to enter another clan's territory than females are, as they are less attached to their natal group and will leave it when in search of a mate.

Hyenas travelling in another clan's home range typically exhibit bodily postures associated with fear, particularly when meeting other hyenas. An intruder can be accepted into another clan after a long period of time if it persists in wandering into the clan's territory, dens or kills. The spotted hyena is a non-seasonal breeder, though a birth peak does occur during the wet season. Females are polyestrus, with an estrus period lasting two weeks.

Members of both sexes may copulate with several mates over the course of several years. Older females show a similar preference, with the addition of preferring males with whom they have had long and friendly prior relationships. These unusual traits make mating more laborious for the male than in other mammals, while also ensuring that rape is physically impossible. Once this is accomplished, a typical mammalian mating posture is adopted. The length of the gestation period tends to vary greatly, though days is the average length of time.

Cubs are born with soft, brownish black hair, and weigh 1. Also, cubs will attack each other shortly after birth.

This is particularly apparent in same sexed litters, and can result in the death of the weaker cub. Male cubs which survive grow faster and are likelier to achieve reproductive dominance, while female survivors eliminate rivals for dominance in their natal clan.

Spotted hyenas exhibit adult behaviours very early in life; cubs have been observed to ritually sniff each other and mark their living space before the age of one month. Within ten days of birth, they are able to move at considerable speed. Cubs begin to lose the black coat and develop the spotted, lighter coloured pelage of the adults at 2—3 months.

They begin to exhibit hunting behaviours at the age of eight months, and will begin fully participating in group hunts after their first year. The average lifespan in zoos is 12 years, with a maximum of 25 years. The clan's social life revolves around a communal den. While some clans may use particular den sites for years, others may use several different dens within a year or several den sites simultaneously.

In the rocky areas of East Africa and Congo, spotted hyenas use caves as dens, while those in the Serengeti use kopjes as resting areas in daylight hours. Dens have large bare patches around their entrances, where hyenas move or lie down on. Because of their size, adult hyenas are incapable of using the full extent of their burrows, as most tunnels are dug by cubs or smaller animals.

The structure of the den, consisting of small underground channels, is likely an effective anti-predator device which protects cubs from predation during the absence of the mother. Spotted hyenas rarely dig their own dens, having been observed for the most part to use the abandoned burrows of warthogs, springhares and jackals. Faeces are usually deposited 20 metres 66 feet away from the den, though they urinate wherever they happen to be. Dens are used mostly by several females at once, and it is not uncommon to see up to 20 cubs at a single site.

This chamber measures up to 2 metres 6. The latter is primarily used by low status females in order to maintain continual access to their cubs, as well as ensure that they become acquainted with their cubs before transferral to the communal den. Compared to other hyenas, the spotted hyena shows a greater relative amount of frontal cortex which is involved in the mediation of social behavior.

Studies strongly suggest convergent evolution in spotted hyena and primate intelligence. Experienced hyenas even helped inexperienced clan-mates to solve the problem. In contrast, chimps and other primates often require extensive training, and cooperation between individuals is not always as easy for them. Similarly, mothers will emit alarm calls in attempting to interrupt attacks on their cubs by other hyenas.

Unlike other large African carnivores, spotted hyenas do not preferentially prey on any species, and only African buffalo and giraffe are significantly avoided. Carrion is detected by smell and the sound of other predators feeding.

During daylight hours, they watch vultures descending upon carcasses. Spotted hyenas usually hunt wildebeest either singly, or in groups of two or three. Chases are usually initiated by one hyena and, with the exception of cows with calves, there is little active defence from the wildebeest herd.

Wildebeest will sometimes attempt to escape hyenas by taking to water although, in such cases, the hyenas almost invariably catch them.

Typical zebra hunting groups consist of 10—25 hyenas, [83] though there is one record of a hyena killing an adult zebra unaided. Though hyenas may harass the stallion, they usually only concentrate on the herd and attempt to dodge the stallion's assaults. Unlike stallions, mares typically only react aggressively to hyenas when their foals are threatened. Unlike wildebeest, zebras rarely take to water when escaping hyenas.

Female gazelles do not defend their fawns, though they may attempt to distract hyenas by feigning weakness. The spotted hyena is the most carnivorous member of the Hyaenidae. The spotted hyena is very efficient at eating its prey; not only is it able to splinter and eat the largest ungulate bones, it is also able to digest them completely. Spotted hyenas can digest all organic components in bones, not just the marrow.

Any inorganic material is excreted with the faeces, which consist almost entirely of a white powder with few hairs. They react to alighting vultures more readily than other African carnivores, and are more likely to stay in the vicinity of lion kills or human settlements.

Wildebeest are the most commonly taken medium-sized ungulate prey item in both Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, with zebra and Thomson's gazelles coming close behind.

Springbok and kudu are the main prey in Namibia 's Etosha National Park , and springbok in the Namib. In the southern Kalahari , gemsbok , wildebeest and springbok are the principal prey. In Chobe , the spotted hyena's primary prey consists of migratory zebra and resident impala. Bushbuck , suni and buffalo are the dominant prey items in the Aberdare Mountains , while Grant's gazelle , gerenuk , sheep , goats and cattle are likely preyed upon in northern Kenya.

In west Africa, it is thought that the spotted hyena is primarily a scavenger, but will occasionally attack domestic stock and medium-size antelopes in some areas. In Cameroon , it is common for spotted hyenas to feed on small antelopes like kob , but may also scavenge on reedbuck , kongoni , buffalo, giraffe, African elephant , topi and roan antelope carcasses. Records indicate that spotted hyenas in Malawi feed on medium to large-sized ungulates such as waterbuck and impala.

In Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve , spotted hyenas primarily prey on wildebeest, followed by buffalo, zebra, impala, giraffe, reedbuck and kongoni. In Uganda , it is thought that the species primarily preys on birds and reptiles, while in Zambia it is primarily a scavenger. Spotted hyenas have also been found to catch fish , tortoises , humans , black rhino , hippo calves, young African elephants, pangolins and pythons. Spotted hyenas are thought to be responsible for the dis-articulation and destruction of some cave bear skeletons.

Such large carcasses were an optimal food resource for hyenas, especially at the end of winter, when food was scarce.

Jane Goodall recorded spotted hyenas attacking or savagely playing with the exterior and interior fittings of cars , and the species is thought to be responsible for eating car tyres. A single spotted hyena can eat at least Once the stomach, its wall and contents are consumed, the hyenas will eat the lungs and abdominal and leg muscles.

Once the muscles have been eaten, the carcass is disassembled and the hyenas carry off pieces to eat in peace. Where spotted hyenas and lions occupy the same geographic area, the two species occupy the same ecological niche, and are thus in direct competition with one another.

In some cases, the extent of dietary overlap can be as high as There exists a common misconception that hyenas steal kills from lions, but most often it is the other way around. Lions are quick to follow the calls of hyenas feeding, a fact demonstrated by field experiments, during which lions repeatedly approached whenever the tape-recorded calls of hyenas feeding were played. Spotted hyenas have adapted to this pressure by frequently mobbing lions which enter their territories.

Although cheetahs and leopards preferentially prey on smaller animals than those hunted by spotted hyenas, hyenas will steal their kills when the opportunity presents itself. Cheetahs are usually easily intimidated by hyenas, and put up little resistance, [] while leopards, particularly males, may stand up to hyenas. There are records of some male leopards preying on hyenas.

Spotted hyenas will follow packs of African wild dogs in order to appropriate their kills. They will typically inspect areas where wild dogs have rested and eat any food remains they find.

When approaching wild dogs at a kill, solitary hyenas will approach cautiously and attempt to take off with a piece of meat unnoticed, though they may be mobbed by the dogs in the attempt. When operating in groups, spotted hyenas are more successful in pirating dog kills, though the dog's greater tendency to assist each other puts them at an advantage against spotted hyenas, who rarely work in unison.

Cases of dogs scavenging from spotted hyenas are rare. Although wild dog packs can easily repel solitary hyenas, on the whole, the relationship between the two species is a one sided benefit for the hyenas, [] with wild dog densities being negatively correlated with high hyena populations.

Spotted hyenas dominate other hyena species wherever their ranges overlap. Brown hyenas encounter spotted hyenas in the Kalahari , where the brown species outnumbers the spotted. The two species typically encounter each other on carcasses, which the larger spotted species usually appropriate.

Sometimes, brown hyenas will stand their ground and raise their manes while emitting growls. This usually has the effect of seemingly confusing spotted hyenas, which will act bewildered, though they will occasionally attack and maul their smaller cousins. Similar interactions have been recorded between spotted and striped hyenas in the Serengeti. Black-backed and side-striped jackals , and African golden wolves will feed alongside hyenas, though they will be chased if they approach too closely.

Spotted hyenas will sometimes follow jackals and wolves during the gazelle fawning season, as jackals and wolves are effective at tracking and catching young animals. Hyenas do not take to eating wolf flesh readily; four hyenas were reported to take half an hour in eating a golden wolf. Overall, the two animals typically ignore each other when there is no food or young at stake.

Spotted hyenas usually keep a safe distance from Nile crocodiles. Though they readily take to water to catch and store prey, hyenas will avoid crocodile-infested waters. Recent observations shows that African rock pythons can hunt adult spotted hyenas. Spotted hyenas have a complex set of postures in communication. When afraid, the ears are folded flat, and are often combined with baring of the teeth and a flattening of the mane. When attacked by other hyenas or by wild dogs, the hyena lowers its hindquarters.

Before and during an assertive attack, the head is held high with the ears cocked, mouth closed, mane erect and the hindquarters high. The tail usually hangs down when neutral, though it will change position according to the situation. When a high tendency to flee an attacker is apparent, the tail is curled below the belly. During an attack, or when excited, the tail is carried forward on the back. An erect tail does not always accompany a hostile encounter, as it has also been observed to occur when a harmless social interaction occurs.

Although they do not wag their tails, spotted hyenas will flick their tails when approaching dominant animals or when there is a slight tendency to flee. When approaching a dominant animal, subordinate spotted hyenas will walk on the knees of their forelegs in submission. Both individuals raise their hind legs and lick each other's anogenital area. Erection is usually a sign of submission, rather than dominance, and is more common in males than in females. It is said that feasting Hyaenas engage in violent fights, and there is such a croaking, shrieking and laughing at such times that a superstitious person might really think all the inhabitants of the infernal regions had been let loose.

The spotted hyena has an extensive vocal range, with sounds ranging from whoops, fast whoops, grunts, groans, lows, giggles, yells, growls, soft grunt-laughs, loud grunt-laughs, whines and soft squeals. The loud "who-oop" call, along with the maniacal laughter, are among the most recognisable sounds of Africa. Typically, very high-pitched calls indicate fear or submission, while loud, lower-pitched calls express aggression.

Hans Kruuk compiled the following table on spotted hyena calls in ; []. Spotted hyenas may contract brucellosis , rinderpest [ citation needed ] and anaplasmosis. They are vulnerable to Trypanosoma congolense , which is contracted by consuming already infected herbivores, rather than through direct infection from tsetse flies.

During the canine distemper outbreak of —94, molecular studies indicated that the viruses isolated from hyenas and lions were more closely related to each other than to the closest canine distemper virus in dogs. Evidence of canine distemper in spotted hyenas has also been recorded in the Masai Mara. Exposure to rabies does not cause clinical symptoms or affect individual survival or longevity. Analyses of several hyena saliva samples showed that the species is unlikely to be a rabies vector, thus indicating that the species catches the disease from other animals rather than from intraspecifics.

The microfilaria of Dipetalonema dracuneuloides have been recorded in spotted hyenas in northern Kenya.

The species is known to carry at least three cestode species of the genus Taenia , none of which are harmful to humans. It also carries protozoan parasites of the genus Hepatozoon in the Serengeti, Kenya and South Africa. Trichinella spiralis are found as cysts in hyena muscles.

The spotted hyena's distribution once ranged in Europe from the Iberian Peninsula to the Urals , where it remained for at least one million years. Europe experienced a massive loss of lowland habitats favoured by spotted hyenas, and a corresponding increase in mixed woodlands.

Spotted hyenas, under these circumstances, would have been outcompeted by wolves and humans which were as much at home in forests as in open lands, and in highlands as in lowlands. Spotted hyena populations began to shrink roughly 20, years ago, completely disappearing from Western Europe between 14—11, years ago, and earlier in some areas. Historically, the spotted hyena was widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is present in all habitats save for the most extreme desert conditions, tropical rainforests and the top of alpine mountains. Its current distribution is patchy in many places, especially in West Africa.

Populations are concentrated in protected areas and surrounding land. It is scarce or absent in tropical rainforests and coastal areas. Its preferred habitats in west Africa include the Guinea and Sudan savannahs, and is absent in the belt of dense coastal forest. In the Namib Desert , it occurs in riverine growth along seasonal rivers, the sub-desertic pro-Namib and the adjoining inland plateau. In ideal habitats, the spotted hyena outnumbers other large carnivores, including other hyena species.

However, the striped and brown hyena occur at greater densities than the spotted species in desert and semi-desert regions. The spotted hyena cave hyena subspecies is depicted in a few examples of Upper Palaeolithic rock art in France. A painting from the Chauvet Cave depicts a hyena outlined and represented in profile, with two legs, with its head and front part with well distinguishable spotted coloration pattern. Because of the specimen's steeped profile, it is thought that the painting was originally meant to represent a cave bear , but was modified as a hyena.

In Lascaux , a red and black rock painting of a hyena is present in the part of the cave known as the Diverticule axial, and is depicted in profile, with four limbs, showing an animal with a steep back.

The body and the long neck have spots, including the flanks. Its head is in profile, with a possibly re-engraved muzzle. The ear is typical of the spotted hyena, as it is rounded.

An image in the Le Gabillou Cave in Dordogne shows a deeply engraved zoomorphic figure with a head in frontal view and an elongated neck with part of the forelimb in profile. It has large round eyes and short, rounded ears which are set far from each other. It has a broad, line-like mouth that evokes a smile. Though originally thought to represent a composite or zoomorphic hybrid, it is probable it is a spotted hyena based on its broad muzzle and long neck.

The relative scarcity of hyena depictions in Paleolithic rock art has been theorised to be due to the animal's lower rank in the animal worship hierarchy; the spotted hyena's appearance was likely unappealing to Ice Age hunters, and it was not sought after as prey.

Also, it was not a serious rival like the cave lion or cave bear , and it lacked the impressiveness of the mammoth or woolly rhino. In Africa, the spotted hyena is usually portrayed as an abnormal and ambivalent animal, considered to be sly, brutish, necrophagous and dangerous. It further embodies physical power, excessivity, ugliness, stupidity, as well as sacredness. Spotted hyenas vary in their folkloric and mythological depictions, depending on the ethnic group from which the tales originate.

It is often difficult to know whether or not spotted hyenas are the specific hyena species featured in such stories, particularly in West Africa, as both spotted and striped hyenas are often given the same names.

In East Africa, Tabwa mythology portrays the spotted hyena as a solar animal that first brought the sun to warm the cold earth. In the culture of the Mbugwe in Tanzania, the spotted hyena is linked to witchcraft. According to Mbugwe folklore, every witch possesses one or more hyenas, which are referred to as "night cattle" and are branded with an invisible mark. It is said that all hyenas are owned by witches, and that truly wild hyenas are non-existent.

Lactating female spotted hyenas are said to be milked by their owners every night to make hyena butter , and are further used as mounts. When a witch acquires a hyena mount, he rides it to distant lands in order to bewitch victims and return safely home before morning.

The Mbugwe consider killing hyenas to be dangerous, as the bond between the hyena and its owner is very strong, and will likely result in the witch seeking retribution. In order to obviate this danger, a killed hyena usually has its ears, tail and front legs cut off and buried, as these are the parts which are supposed to be marked by the witches' brand.

In the same area, hyena faeces are believed to enable a child to walk at an early age, thus it is not uncommon in that area to see children with hyena dung wrapped in their clothes. The Kaguru of Tanzania and the Kujamaat of Southern Senegal view hyenas as inedible and greedy hermaphrodites.

A mythical African tribe called the Bouda is reputed to house members able to transform into hyenas.

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