Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spotted Hyena

Crocuta crocuta are the largest of the living species of Hyena, all of which are found within the family Hyaenidae, which itself is part of the suborder Feliforma. That all means that despite their doggish looks and pack behavior, Hyenas are actually more closely related to cats! 

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Spotted Hyenas live all across Africa south of the Sahara. As mentioned, they live in large packs, sometimes numbering up to 80 members, which are led by the females. They are large, muscular hunters, capable of weighing over 175lbs. Interestingly, the males and females are extremely difficult to distinguish from one another, as they have similar looking external reproductive organs. The species is also sexually dimorphic, with the females being larger than the males.

They are exceptional hunters, working in groups to take down prey that includes gazelle, buffalo, and wildebeast. They are also extremely opportunistic feeders, which can cause problems when they live in close vicinity to humans. Spotted Hyenas, like all Hyenas, have a dentition that allows them to crack bones. Spotted Hyenas also have the strongest jaws among all animals, which assists greatly in their bone breaking ability. They can consume and digest their entire kill. There is a myth that Hyenas are scavengers, and while they will do so on occasion, around 95% of the diets consist of food that they have killed themselves.

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