Spotted Hyaena

Spotted Hyaena

Female spotted hyaenas are extremely masculinated and have genitalia that is almost indistinguishable from those of males, through which they must urinate, mate, and deliver young.

Female spotted hyaenas are extremely masculinated and the genitalia of females are almost indistinguishable from those of males. Thus, males and females look extremely similar.

The clitoris is enlarged, looks like a penis, and is capable of erection. Females also have a pair of sacs in the genital region which are filled with fibrous tissue. These look much like a scrotum, but are covered with more hair than the male’s scrotum. The female has no external vagina and must urinate, mate, and deliver young through the urogenital canal that exits through the pseudo-penis.

High androgen levels were once thought to be a major cause of this masculinazation. One current hypothesis is that sexual mimicry is the driving force behind hyaena masculinization as females that look like males may be protected from aggression from other females.


Image | © Cloudtail the Snow Leopard, Some Rights Reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Sources | (Kingdon, 1977; Law, 2004; Muller & Wrangham, 2002; Nowak, 1999)

 

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