Did you know that there are a total of three species of hyena in the Hyaenidae family? These include the spotted hyena, the striped hyena, and the brown hyena.The spotted hyena, fondly known as the “laughing hyena”, is found in sub-Saharan Africa. Their scientific name is Crocuta crocuta, and they are the second-largest four-legged predators on the African continent.
The spotted hyena can live in a range of habitats, including grasslands, woodlands, deserts, mountains, and forests found across sub-Saharan Africa. The largest population of spotted hyenas live in the Serengeti (Tanzania) and Kruger National Park (South Africa).Unlike other mammals, spotted hyena sleep in dens but do not use them for resting. Instead, they find shaded tree canopies or other animals’ vacant holes during the day.
As predators, the spotted hyena diet is mostly meat, but they are classed as omnivores. The average meal of a spotted hyena can weigh up to 14.5 kg – that’s a lot of meat. Typical prey of these spotted creatures includes zebra, wildebeest, and various antelope species.If they cannot find their usual prey, spotted hyenas have been known to hunt and eat fish, snakes, birds, and vegetable matter.
Spotted hyenas are known as “laughing hyenas” due to their distinctive call that sounds like a human laughing. Their laugh indicates social status amongst their clan members. A clan of hyenas can vary in size but are usually between 80 and 100 members.Scientists discovered that the tone and pitch in a hyena’s laugh could give an indication of age and social status. They communicate with whoops, cackles, and yells – some can be heard from almost 5 km away.Hyenas also make 10 other vocalization sounds to communicate with other members in the clan.
The size of an animal’s frontal cortex is believed to be linked to its social intelligence. It has been found that the hyena’s frontal cortex is similar in size to primates.A study done by Duke University demonstrated that a captive pair of spotted hyenas showed better social cooperation and problem-solving than primates (chimpanzees).Hyenas and lions are mortal enemies. They often fight over territories and hunt the same prey. The fierce competition for resources between these two animals leads to ‘infanticide’ – the act of killing each other’s young.
As mentioned, spotted hyenas live together in groups, or in other words, clans. The clan can make up to 80 members, with females being the matriarch or alpha female.Female hyena have three times more testosterone in their body than their male counterparts. As a result, they are built more muscular and display far more aggression than males.
Spotted hyenas hunt and kill in packs, often isolating and chasing down old and weak prey. Regardless of what Simba would like you to believe, spotted hyenas don’t only scavenge for lions’ leftovers. They hunt and kill 95 percent of their prey – reaching a top speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) when chasing their next meal.A pack of spotted hyenas can devour an entire antelope, under half an hour, leaving no leftovers. This includes their skins, hooves, and bones. They also eat lizards, snakes, insects, and birds.Spotted hyenas have unique acids in their stomach, allowing them to digest materials such as bones – where other animals cannot. Hyenas can eat one-third of their body weight – a rather large mouthful.