Why Do Hyenas Look Like Dogs

Concurrent evolution explains why hyenas resemble African wild canines so much despite having different progenitors because those behavioral and physical characteristics were successful environmental adaptations and fit a comparable ecological niche.

Why do hyenas resemble dogs despite being cat-related?

Along with cats and dogs, hyenas are members of the Order Carnivora; however, hyenas and cats belong to the Suborder Feliformia. According to some genetic studies, cats and hyenas are more closely linked because they have a more recent common ancestor.

Where did hyenas originate?

Our entire history has been observed by hyenas. Given that they had a few million years on humans, it was simple. While our oldest human ancestors didn’t separate from other primates until about 6 million years ago, the earliest of their kind emerged from civet-like progenitors about 15 million years ago. Long before people attempted to take off, hyenas were lapping around. And among all the hyena species that have ever existed, there is one whose paw has had a significant impact on molding our past. Pachycrocuta brevirostris was the largest bone-crusher yet discovered.

You can encounter the lion-sized hyena across the Old World if you follow our ancestor’s fossil trail. In southeast Spain, around 1.3 million years ago, Pachycrocuta and humans engaged in a scuffle over an appetizing elephant carcass. China’s Dragon Bone Hill’s inhabitants did not fare as well. The majority of the Homo erectus bones recovered from strata in a cave 750,000,000,000 years old reveal how the native Pachycroctua tore apart their corpses. But for a very long period, whether as foes or prey, our fate was intertwined with theirs. Paleontologist Joan Madurell-Malapeira and colleagues recently came to the conclusion that our ancestors competed with Pachycrocuta for access to meaty megafaunal carcasses for hundreds of thousands of years after humans left Africa.

Prehistoric people had no intention of engaging in combat with enormous hyenas. At least, no trace of such a foolish plan can be found in the fossil record. (On the other hand, there might not be any bones left.) The fact that we were all pursuing the same goal was more important. Within two weeks, even an adult elephant carcass can have all of its meat removed. You must act quickly if you want meat. Through the development of our Stone Age civilisation, humans were attempting to emulate hyenas, who have evolved to perform such a duty. We were competitive, but Pachycrocuta had an advantage that came from evolution.

Pachycrocuta’s destructive abilities were described by paleontologist Paul Palmqvist and colleagues in a 2011 study that considered the creature’s biomechanics as well as its leftovers. A hyena like the ones we are familiar with today was not Pachycrocuta. Although adult Pachycrocuta brevirostris had shoulders that were just slightly taller than those of modern spotted hyenas, they had skulls that were comparable to those of adult male lions. Pachycrocuta was 20% larger than its contemporary, cackling cousins, but was stockier, that is, draped lower to the ground. Pachycrocuta possessed the physique of a chronic scavenger, adapted to dragging off huge parts of carcasses back to the den rather than being a swift hyena that rushed after prey.

The study’s focus point was one such hyena residence discovered in the 1.5 million year old strata of the Guadix-Baza basin, Spain. Here, more than 5,800 bones from 21 different species of huge animals have been unearthed, yet they weren’t washed in or gathered by the elements. They were carried there by Pachycrocuta, who left their mark on broken and chewed-up bones. The humeri and tibiae of the deer, bovid, and horse carcasses they brought back were very commonly broken apart by the big hyenas, possibly because they were both simpler to crack and contained more scrumptious, fatty marrow. The pattern is similar to that found in the dens of striped hyenas, which primarily eat scavenged meat.

How much carrion made up the Pachycrocuta’s diet, though? Despite the fact that the smallest hyena, the aardwolf, is an expert at hunting insects and that spotted hyenas are devoted hunters who are frequently preyed upon by lions, hyenas continue to have the stigma of being filthy scavengers. Only the striped and brown hyenas can be considered true scavengers, and even then, they add fruit and small animals to their diet. So what is a large, lion-sized hyena with formidable jaws to be made of? Did Pachycrocuta rely on chance and take what it could from carnivores like sabercat kills?

Pachycrocuta responds with a contradiction. According to Palmqvist and colleagues, brown and striped hyenas frequently scavenge, however they are less heavily built than spotted hyenas. That’s because looking for rotten meat that’s ready to eat involves traveling huge distances and taking a lot of time. Being hefty is not advantageous if you are constantly moving. Not to add that modern large carnivores are mostly hunters that use carrion as a supplement to their meals rather than the reverse. Pachycrocuta resembles a hyena and is nearly too large for the duty of shredding a cadaver into splinters.

Pachycrocuta, however, didn’t exist in our universe. According to Palmqvist and coauthors, this hyena prowled when the guild of carnivores was much more diverse, including sabertooth cats, who are frequently depicted as leaving messy, juicy kills. Pachycrocuta might have been a particularly committed kleptoparasite, keeping an eye out for carrion birds or stalking cats to take their prey. This could help to explain why the Guadix-Baza den has a wider variety of herbivores than the more limited selection of prey that would be expected of a predator that is best suited to a particular habitat or kind of prey. Pachycrocuta might have eaten anything it could.

Early humans did not immortalize Pachycrocuta in art for us to know how this giant actually acted, much to the dismay of paleontologists. Before humanity invented iconography, the beast vanished. Meat was more important to us. There are many concerns that remain unanswered, like whether the enormous hyenas hunted solitary or in packs, relied on plundering other kills or pursued their own meals, and whether they were striped, spotted, or wore a new pattern entirely. However, I can’t help but wonder how they influenced our past. Over a million years can’t pass if you’re living in the shadow of such a powerful carnivore and expect to stay the same.

Can a dog and a hyena breed?

[Canid] Canis sp. Originally classed as a hyena (Hyaena pictus Temminck 1820, p. 10), the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) was eventually reclassified as a dog, though in its own genus. When taxonomists vacillate between two different animal species, it frequently heralds a later discovery that the organism in question actually resulted from the hybridization of those two animal types. As Nowak (1999, vol. I, p. 676) notes, “There is enormous variety in pelage, the mottled black, yellow, and white occurring in practically every conceivable arrangement and proportion,” the animal’s highly variable coat coloration is also suggestive of hybrid parentage. The widespread consensus is that L. pictus is a non-hybrid canid, meaning that it is not particularly connected to hyenas compared to other canid species.

A supposedly extinct wolf-hyena hybrid, as depicted in a bestiary by Zakariya al-Qazwini from the 13th century (Walters MS 659).

The following three crosses are classified under the topic of the Striped Hyena since that animal would have been the only hyena that the ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of.

Domestic dog Canis familiaris Early texts mention this cross, but there is no trustworthy current report to support it. The extent to which the dog and hyena create hybrid offspring has not yet been established, according to Nott (1856, p. 495). Although it is described by numerous early writers, he offers no citation, and this cross does not seem to be supported by any trustworthy reports (e.g., Julius Caesar Scaliger 1612, p. 648). Hyenas are mentioned in some author’s theories on the ancestors of the domestic dog, along with foxes, wolves, and jackals. Bochart (1663, p. 832) believed that the Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), a species, was a result of this cross, according to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1776, p. 9).

Lupus Canis (Wolf) Early texts mention this cross, but there is no trustworthy current report to support it. According to Conrad Gesner (1560, p. 78), the hyena conceives by a wolf and gives birth to Onolysum, or Monolycum, which does not live in a herd but rather is solitary and wanders among humans and flocks. A Greek writer recently claimed that Onolysum has rough, thick hair, no neck vertebrae, and is stiffened in one upright bone (translated in Zirkle 1935, p. 34).

Lion: Panthera leo This cross is mentioned by ancient authors, but no trustworthy modern account has yet provided any evidence to support these claims. According to an old fable related by Pliny the Elder (Naturalis Historia, VIII, xlv), a lioness and a hyena give birth to the corocotta, which imitates the sounds of men and livestock. It has an unbroken bone ridge generating a continuous tooth without any gum in each jaw, which is enclosed in a sort of case to prevent being blunted by contact with the opposing jaw (Rackham 1961).

an old corocotta representation. Italian National Museum of Palestrina’s Nile Mosaic detail.

All female spotted hyenas have functional penises. They use it pee, signal, anally mount males & females for dominance, and give birth.

The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) of Tanzania has intersex plumbing, with females having penises that are almost identical to those of the males. (EN23) … A spotted hyena only only produces one size of gamete throughout its entire life, whether as an egg or sperm, according to the first scientific study conducted in 1939. (EN24) These hyenas are not hermaphrodites, as a result. Instead, like certain female bears, spotted hyenas are intersex.

(EN23) L. Frank, “Female Masculinization in the Spotted Hyena: Endocrinology, Behavioral Ecology, and Evolution,” in J. Gittleman, ed., Carnivore Behavior and Evolution, vol. 2, Cornell University Press; L. Frank, “Evolution of Genital Masculinization: Why Do Female Hyenas Have Such a Large “Penis”?” 12:58–62, Trends Ecol. Evol.

Why can’t hyenas be dogs?

There are no dogs allowed here! The dog or cat families do not include hyenas. Instead, they have their own family, the Hyaenidae, because they are so distinctive. The striped hyena, the giggly spotted hyena, the brown hyena, and the aardwolf (it’s a hyena, not a wolf) are the four species that make up the Hyaenidae family. They serve as the cleanup staff in their natural habitats.

Compared to spotted and brown hyenas, striped hyenas are a little smaller and have received the least research. They have a big head, large, pointed ears, a thick muzzle, and black eyes. Their coat might be golden yellow, brown, or gray with black stripes on the body and legs, but they have a completely black muzzle, ears, and throat. Along the back, a mane of long hair grows. The sly hyena blends in well with the long, dry grass. The hyena’s legs are its most distinctive trait; the front legs are substantially longer than the back legs. Hyenas’ characteristic gait, which gives the impression that they are always limping uphill, is a result of this. Hyenas can easily run, trot, and walk due to their agility.

Can hyenas alter their gender?

The hyena’s genitalia, however, are the most perplexing of all. In fact, the creature is “popularly thought to be bisexual and to turn male and female in alternate years,” according to Pliny. The hyenas in Aesop’s tale “The Hyenas” switch sexes every year. The hyena was described as a “hermaphroditic self-eating devourer of the dead, trailer of birthing calves, ham-stringer, and probable biter-off of your face at night as you slept” by Ernest Hemingway. Burning sick, Ernest.

Why is there so much sexual mythologizing? It turns out that female hyenas have enormously swollen, half-foot-long clitorises that nearly exactly resemble penises. They even have what appear to be testicles, but are actually their labia that have fused and curled up. even experience erections. Oh, and they produce a two-pound cub from the massive clitoris.

However, this is not hermaphroditism, despite what Ernest might have believed. Despite the fact that females have significantly modified clitoris, males and females have different genetics and reproductive organs. Which begs the question of why something like that would arise.

One theory is that it might have anything to do with the peculiar social behaviors of hyenas. In contrast to most gregarious carnivorous mammals, female spotted hyenas can be up to 10% larger than male counterparts. Females also serve as the clan’s hyper-aggressive leader, leading hunts and establishing dominance over males. According to one study, the more dominant the female, the more androgen she gives her babies during pregnancy. This makes them more aggressive and better able to compete for food in a clan of up to 80 individuals.

It was once believed that this androgen was to blame for the clitoris’ accelerated growth. Nevertheless, the female progeny of androgen-blocking medicines fed to pregnant hyenas nevertheless had larger clitorises.

Thus, the strange genitalia aren’t only a byproduct of testosterone, but they undoubtedly have a purpose. One theory contends that because the female reproductive system is so long, it takes much longer for sperm to reach their target, giving the female more opportunity to urinate and flush the sperm out if she wasn’t really into the male after all. This is the best example of sexual selection. (High levels of androgen are likely prompting males to start mounting females at a younger age, by the way. Scientists hypothesize that this is the case because—and I’m not kidding—men need the practice to successfully insert their erect peni into the female’s tranquil sorta-penis.)

The hyena’s eating habits have sometimes given rise to unwarranted disgust. Naturalist Conrad Gesner said in the sixteenth century that hyenas gorge themselves so fully that they must wedge themselves between two trees or stones to get food out of both ends. True, the hyena will eat just about anything it can get its teeth on, but this is incorrect. It chews on bones, horns, and hooves; it’s like Africa’s equivalent of the garbage disposal. The spotted hyena is a skilled predator that kills up to 95% of the food it consumes, despite the fact that it has traditionally been portrayed as a bad, filthy scavenger.

A 2000-year-old fantastical depiction of the hyena by Pliny claimed it possessed “some mystical powers by which it makes every animal at which it gazes three times to stand stuck to the spot.” The fact that the Middle Ages’ bestiaries, or encyclopedias of actual and imaginary creatures, seemed to go out of their way to portray the beasts as vicious thugs and sexual outlaws in the years following Pliny didn’t help the hyena’s reputation in any way.