The hyena, "our favorite animal"
May 7, 2008 8:28 PM   Subscribe

"With most animals, males duke it out and the winner gets the girls," says Holekamp. "But with hyenas, females have 100 percent say." They decide when and under what conditions they will tolerate deferential sperm donors. At age 2 or 3 a male leaves his natal clan and wanders off to beg acceptance into another clan. After vicious rejections, he eventually succeeds and reaps his reward: brutal harassment as the clan's nadir, one of the last in line for food and sex. This probation, which biologists call "endurance rivalry," is a test, Holekamp explains: "The guy who can stick it out the longest wins." The trial lasts about two years, after which some females may grant him access. "You do not want to be a male hyena," Holekamp says.
-From an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Who's Laughing Now? Professor Holekamp's hyena site. Also, hyena pictures and The Hyena Pages, a fine site about this fascinating animal.
posted by Kattullus (32 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Extremely adorable picture of hyena cub.
posted by Kattullus at 8:30 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


"You do not want to be a male hyena"

Holy Christ, no. Have you ever seen an attractive female hyena? They're all dogs!
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:31 PM on May 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


If you'd read the article, Ubu, you'd know that they're all mongeese.
posted by Kattullus at 8:34 PM on May 7, 2008


After vicious rejections, he eventually succeeds and reaps his reward: brutal harassment as the clan's nadir, one of the last in line for food and sex. This probation, which biologists call "endurance rivalry," is a test, Holekamp explains: "The guy who can stick it out the longest wins."

Welcome to my 20's.
posted by felix betachat at 8:40 PM on May 7, 2008 [10 favorites]


I just finished reading this in my dead tree version. It was great!

Best part was when they said they're closer to cats than dogs and that lions do more scavenging of hyena kills than vice versa.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:43 PM on May 7, 2008


"With most animals, males duke it out and the winner gets the girls... But with hyenas, females have 100 percent say."

If that's true, some female hyenas obviously have lower standards than others.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:44 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you'd read the article, Ubu, you'd know that they're all mongeese.

I was speaking figuratively.

Besides, mongeese are foxes.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:47 PM on May 7, 2008


Some people don't mind getting up close & personal with a hyaena or two.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:54 PM on May 7, 2008


I love when hyenas laugh; they always sound like they heard a green joke. It's hilarious.
posted by drea at 8:55 PM on May 7, 2008


Finally, a biological model for Junior High.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:59 PM on May 7, 2008


Heh. Okay, I have a hyena story here.

Er, no, wait. That was a cougar.
posted by dhartung at 9:04 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno. Sounds better than my experiences on the NYC dating scene.
posted by nowonmai at 9:26 PM on May 7, 2008


Yeah, that and the gigantic, elongated clitoris pretty much makes female hyenas pretty bad-ass. And the males less so.
posted by GuyZero at 9:29 PM on May 7, 2008


I wonder how these researchers and scientists make sure they're not just subconsciously projecting their own neuroses and insecurities onto the hyenas' behavior?
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:39 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I remember reading an article in the New Yorker a long time ago in which the writer describes being attacked by a hyena and seeing it eat part of her leg as it was attacking her. I decided then that hyenas were not allowed on my ark.

I can't find the original text, but the summary is here.
posted by bibliowench at 9:41 PM on May 7, 2008


The newborn female Spotted Hyena are also genetically programed to practice neonatal siblicide. The first born will attack their litter mates immediately after birth.
posted by tkchrist at 9:55 PM on May 7, 2008


I wonder how ikkyu2 makes sure he's not just subconsciously projecting his own neuroses and insecurities onto these researchers' and scientists' behaviour?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:00 PM on May 7, 2008


Thanks for the post. I really enjoyed the book Cry of the Kalahari (by Mark and Delia Owens) which talked a lot about hyena behavior. It's a great pop-science book on animal behavior (and an amazing adventure story).
posted by Staggering Jack at 10:12 PM on May 7, 2008


so, who wants to be the first to tell dave sim about this?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:13 PM on May 7, 2008


Oh, he doesn't, Ubu. Not at all.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:33 PM on May 7, 2008


I love this one. "If you think I am cute, you should meet my mother!"
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:45 PM on May 7, 2008


so, who wants to be the first to tell dave sim about this?

You can't, unless you want to sign that stupid petition...
posted by eclectist at 11:00 PM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: Yeah, that and the gigantic, elongated clitoris pretty much makes female hyenas pretty bad-ass.
"The subordonate [sic] individuals lick the clitoris of a higher ranked female as a sign of submission. The clitoris of the dominant female will be licked by all the other females, males (which are inferior to any female) or cubes [sic]. When females lick each other's clitorises, this is a greeting or an affective behavior that strengthens links between individuals. Usually, females won't lick males' penises, as they are clearly subordinate, the higher ranked male is inferior to the lower ranked female.
More reason to not want to be a male hyena.
posted by tellurian at 11:13 PM on May 7, 2008


Hot cube-on-meerkat action. Oh [sic] yeah.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:44 PM on May 7, 2008


And how is this any different from being married??? Wait in marriage you continuously get harassed and you never get sex....
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:50 AM on May 8, 2008


If you had to give birth through a pseudo-penis you'd be pretty damn picky about your sexcapades as well.
posted by ZaneJ. at 6:34 AM on May 8, 2008


I wonder how these researchers and scientists make sure they're not just subconsciously projecting their own neuroses and insecurities onto the hyenas' behavior?

Which is really the problem with most behavioral research (personal biases can be a problem in any science, including neuroscience, but observational studies like behavioral ecology are especially prone to this problem). Behavioral science was changed forever when one scientist studying baboons developed a method which standardized behavioral research and made it replicable--in her particular case one chose an individual and recorded all of its behavior for a period of time, instead of just counting the number of times males fought or had sex.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:51 AM on May 8, 2008


What, no hyena butter?
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:58 AM on May 8, 2008


Yeah, that giving birth *through* your clitoris thing-- not so fun for hyena females either, I'd imagine.
posted by Maias at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2008


There's some anal gland residue scraping in the article, MrMoonPie, don't you worry.
posted by Kattullus at 10:02 AM on May 8, 2008


I've long thought of hyenas as the exact opposite end of the spectrum from foxes.

Despite their dog-like appearance and mannerisms, hyenas are more closely related to cats, whereas foxes, with their slitted eyes, retractable claws, and vertical pounce hunting style (and the fact that the young are called 'kits') as canids are technically closer to dogs.

Given the choice, I'd rather deal with a vicious ferocious killer like a vulpine over a hyena.
posted by quin at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2008


A few years ago we were driving through a non-residential area of the Berkeley hills at dusk and we started hearing these freakishly eery grunting howls, like a pack of giant murderous chupacabras. The sounds were bouncing down a canyon, and we were mystified about what it was and where it was coming from. It just sounded like something to run away from. Months later we learned that what we'd heard was a hyena colony that lives up there being studied at UC Berkeley.
posted by tula at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2008


« Older Tom Waits Press Conference...  |  A letter from the whole world:... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments