Spotted Hyaena

Spotted Hyaena

The spotted hyaena has the highest parental investment of any carnivore and feeds their young milk with an extremely high energy content.

The spotted hyaena has the highest parental investment of any carnivore for several reasons, however males have not been reported to have a role in parental care.

The major source of food for a young spotted hyaena is milk from the mother. Spotted hyaena milk has extremely high energy content as the mean protein content is 14.9%, and the mean fat content is 14.1%. This is only exceeded by some bears and sea otters (Enhydra lutris). Cubs are not weaned until they are between 12 and 18 months of age, which is extremely late. By the weaning age, juvenile hyaenas already have completely erupted adult teeth, which is also very rare.

Spotted hyaena females are also very protective of their young and do not tolerate other hyaenas around them at first. Females will intervene on behalf of their daughters in antagonistic encounters and form coalitions with them to secure the place of the daughters in the dominance hierarchy immediately below that of the mother. Infanticide has been witnessed several times in the wild both by hyaenas from neighboring clans and also by females from the same clan.

Two to six weeks after birth, the mother transports young from the burrow in which they were born, often an abandoned aardvark (Orycteropus afer), warthog, or bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) burrow, to a communal den. Communal denning seems to be an important part of spotted hyaena social behavior, but no communal care of young takes place. One exception to this has been observed in the Kalahari during a particularly difficult period.


Image | © Cloudtail the Snow Leopard, Some Rights Reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Sources | (Frank, Holekamp, & Smale, 1995; Hofer & East, 2003; Kingdon, 1977; Kruuk, 1972; Law, 2004; Nowak, 1999)

 

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