Real hyenas are not half that bad or nasty some people think! They are not less cut than a lion
or a cheetah. Have you ever seen hyena's puppets? They are so sweet, dark brown, without spots, but very cute!
Well, I think I should start with the history of the hyenas.
The History Of The Hyenas
Hyenas are, like
all Carnivores, descended from Cimolestes, a small, rodent-similar
animal, living 58 million years ago. It was the first of all
animals who developed a form of teeth working like breaking
scissors. And these teeth were the important point to make the
carnivores as powerful as they are today.
Well, hyenas are more related to felines than to canines although their look is closer to the canines. Hyenas developed in an era called miozen (or similar) in Eurasia ( Europe and Asia were one continant to this time). The earliest real hyena
was an animal called Plioviverrops, living 20-22 millions of years ago. You can identify a hyena by watching her middle ear and the teeth. Plioviverrops is supposed that it climbed trees and had feline similar claws to hold tight. Its food was little vertebrates, fruits, poison plants, millipedes and carrions. The line of its descendents developed running to a point-snouts and long legs, so they looked similar to canines.
Like the canines, the hyenas succeeded evelution and at their dream time, 15 million years ago, there were 30 or more different kinds of hyenas in the Old World (meant is Eurasia, without Australia and America ). They weren't specialized and had teeth with which they could eat both, meat and fruits. They lived in pairs and with territories, and there was no size difference between the sexes. Probalbly a few of the canide-similar hyenas lived in groupes, like wolves, too.
But then, 5-7 million years ago, the real canides came to Eurasia, using the Bering-Bridge between today Alaska and Russia. That started the desaster of the hyenas, they died away, caused by the rivalry of the real canides and a problem with a climat change. The 22 kinds of canides here in Europe were earlier the replaced of the canin-similar hyenas.
The climate change dried the Mediteranien Sea and opened the door to Africa. The big hebivores, who were the dominant kind of prey, became replaced by smaller and quicker antilope-similar kinds of animals, because the jungel turned into wide savannas. So the hunters had to adapt, too. Because of the many excrements the savanna was the home of many insects, too, among them termites. Well, one of the early hyenas speacialized on eating termites, 15 million years ago. His descendents were lucky, because they survived the desaster and matched their only canid rival, (I don't know his English name). This hyenas are the ancestors of the today Aardwolf, the only termite eating hyena, very pretty striped.
The other hyenas developed another ability, they splitted bones ( that's why they are often seen with bones in "The Lion King" I think). 15 million years ago, the hyenas began to develope teeth for splitting bones, wich meant the decline of the Percrocutoids, a probably canide kind of bone splitting animals. 12-10 million years ago, the two lines of hyenas, the canide-similar hyenas and the bone-splitting ones, existed in Eurasia. The bone splitters were mobile opportunists, probably scavenging, but huntung, too. When the canide similar hyenas became extinct, their moment of glory arrived and they filled in their places in Eurasia. In the Old World ( America was dominated by canides, so exept of 1-2 kinds no hyena moved there) they were an incredible success in scavenging. One hyena called Pachycrocuta, weight 200 kg and was able to splitt the bones of an elephant. Funny, he was the ancestor of our spotted hyenas.
Well, this Pachycrocuta had teeth, wich could split the bones without growing blunt their cutting instruments, by using the fronter molars for the bones and the back molars for eating the meat. Pachycrocuta was fighting with the earlier lion,
their prey, like today spotted hyenas and lions.
When the climate changes and the savannas developed, it was Pachycrocuta's time to go, to let his smaller descendents, the spotted hyenas, get to a look-in. The spotted hyenas were 35000-15000 years ago drawn by cave men in Europe. Since their succeed about the Percrocutoids there were never more than 3-6 kinds of hyenas, pity.
Wow, I didn't know there's so much to tell about the history of our hyenas! And there's even more! But that's it now.
The Spotted Hyena
live today only in Africa and parts of Asia. They weigh on
average 80 kg and have a height of 75-80 cm. Spotted hyenas are
the ones, wich Walt Disney used for "The Lion King".
They are the biggest and strongest among the hyenas and the
hardest rivals to lions. They can split bones and make a pressure
of 800 kg(!) pro cm² with their jaws. Their stomaches are big
and filled with a very hydrochloric gastric acid to turn the
bones into calcium.
Spotted hyenas live in groups and have a distinct social system. Every pack of spotted hyenas living in the savanna have on average 10-80 members with a slight surplus of females. The females dominate the society, and because of that Shenzi must be the leader or the queen of the hyenas in "The Lion King".
Hyena packs in the Serengeti posses territories of on average 55 km², marked with faeces. Because of the wandering prey the hyena's territory is situated between the "summer" and the "winter" residence of the herds, so they have only three months of the year enough food in their hunting ground. When the time has passed they've got to follow the herds over 33 km and trespass the territories of their neighbour packs, but it's allowed for the meagre seasons.
The voices of the adult females, males and cubs are different, but every single spotted hyena has her own identifying voice. So a lost cub can easily be found. Hyenas shout too, to show that they are indeviduells, the frequency and the way they shout shows their social status. The males shout more often than the females, but the leader shouts longest of all.
When spotted hyenas eat, they gotta keep a strict hirachy, so the females eat first. Perhaps it's because otherwise the cubs wouldn't survive the seasons when the hyenas have to follow their prey. In this times the mother has to oscillate between her cubs and the prey. Wow, that's power!
When hyenas practise love, there are only a few males who claim all the females for them to mate with. The domination among the males is mostly the achievement of a long time of services, so it's likely that Ed and Banzai are high standing males when they join Shenzi. Hyena cubs are dark brown, nearly black. Often only twins are born, probably because of the long time of hunger in dry season. And now a specialty only spotted hyenas own in the complete known animal kingdom! Hyena cubs try to kill each other directly after their birth! Well, when they are the same sex. Otherwise they are friendly. That's because the daughter or son inherites the social status of her/his mother. And if only one is there... The mother, who wants to have as much healthy cubs as possible and is not very happy about their fighting children, mostly is too weak after the birth, to prevent the murder. When the cubs are older, they stop to kill each other. Ten mothers share one big cave for suckling then. Often there is one hyena who watches the cave, to protect the cubs from lions or foreign hyenas. Young spotted hyenas learn hunting when they are 16 months old and males often migrate from their pack when they become sex maturity (?). Female hyenas often stay at her pack forever and inherit the place of their mother.
Wanna know how a shouting hyena sounds? Click here or here or here
So, that's it at first. I'm sure I forgot a lot, so I'll update this page every now and then. Mail me, if you wanna know something special about hyenas or notice, that I forgot an important point to Tiger.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Brown Hyena,
Go to The Aardwolf
Go to The Striped Hyena
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© of the teeth and pachycrocuta picture by