Nature constantly engineers new and creative solutions to all sorts of problems—turning our stereotypes about sex upside-down along the way.
Recent research has shown Neanderthals were sophisticated and fearless hunters, successfully killing a large variety of dangerous game. But as far as humans were concerned, Neanderthals may have possibly been tasty main courses themselves, perhaps one reason for their, uh, "disappearance". Yet humans didn't always sit atop the food pyramid - the oldest human hair has been discovered - inside fossilized 200,000 year old hyena dung.
"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.
The Hyena Men, seen a couple of years ago and now updated: Pieter Hugo's gallery of photographs of people with hyenas and baboons as pets in Abuja, Nigeria.Text. [more inside]