Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Studies Of Hyena Skull Development Put Teeth Into New Female Dominance Theory

Date:
April 8, 2009
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Getting between a female hyena and her cubs at chow time is no laughing matter -- especially for males. Females rule among spotted hyenas, making them rare among mammals and unique among carnivores. Researchers now believe they know why.

A mother spotted hyena and cub.
Credit: Courtesy of Kay Holekamp

Getting between a female hyena and her cubs at chow time is no laughing matter – especially for males.

Females rule among spotted hyenas, making them rare among mammals and unique among carnivores, Michigan State University researcher Kay Holekamp said. After more than 20 years of closely studying generations of the ferocious, yet social creatures, Holekamp and colleagues now believe they know why.

"We've been unhappy with previous explanations of sex role reversal in hyenas for some time," said zoology professor Holekamp, who is recognized as a top authority on the spotted hyena.

Holekamp and associates theorize that the length of time it takes for the massive skulls and jaws of hyenas to mature in youngsters – combined with the intense feeding competition typical of hyena clans – prompt female family members to develop dominant behaviors. "Mothers have to compensate with aggression for the handicaps their kids are experiencing during feeding," she said.

Hyena cubs are at particular risk after they are weaned, she said, because their skulls don't fully develop until after sexual maturity.

More closely related to cats than dogs, hyenas are most closely related to the animal family that includes mongooses. They can weigh up to 185 pounds and stand up to 3 feet tall, with jaws capable of cracking open giraffe leg bones up to 3 inches in diameter. Known mostly as scavengers and able to eat things that would sicken or kill many other species, they also are good hunters, capable of bringing down prey several times their own size.

The complex social system established by spotted hyenas, which live in clans numbering up to 90 members, is a prime area of research in Holekamp's lab.

Holekamp was joined in her research by Heather Watts, the report's lead author, and Jaime Tanner, both former Holekamp laboratory graduate students. Associate zoology professor Barbara Lundrigan, curator of mammalology and ornithology at the MSU Museum, lent her expertise on skull development and helped develop and test the group’s new hypothesis using many of the museum's 70-plus known-age hyena skulls.

A report describing the researchers' theory is published in the March 18 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Heather E Watts, Jaime B Tanner, Barbara L Lundrigan, and Kay E Holekamp. Post-weaning maternal effects and the evolution of female dominance in the spotted hyena. Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 2009; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0268

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Studies Of Hyena Skull Development Put Teeth Into New Female Dominance Theory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331112851.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2009, April 8). Studies Of Hyena Skull Development Put Teeth Into New Female Dominance Theory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331112851.htm
Michigan State University. "Studies Of Hyena Skull Development Put Teeth Into New Female Dominance Theory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331112851.htm (accessed April 15, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida

After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida

AP (Apr. 14, 2014) Florida wildlife officials say they have killed five bears following an attack on a woman in a suburban subdivision in central Florida. Forty-five year-old Terri Frana was attacked by a large bear in her driveway Saturday. (April 14) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Uruguay Opens Its First Cannabis Library

Uruguay Opens Its First Cannabis Library

AFP (Apr. 13, 2014) Uruguay opened its first Cannabis Library in Montevideo on Saturday, where people can come and read books on cannabis or take classes on how to grow the plant or even how to cook with it. Duration: 01:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins