Sunday, June 14, 2009

How low can your belly go?

A hungry adult spotted hyena can consume a LOT of food in a single meal. An adult hyena is shown in the top photo before consuming a meal. An adult female typically weighs about 65 kg (roughly 145 lbs). Although average meal size for spotted hyenas varies across Africa from 0.2 kg to 9 kg, an individual hyena can consume approximately 18 kg of meat and bone in an hour. That's 40 lbs of food, folks. Imagine how you'd feel if you had just consumed 160 Quarter Pounders at one sitting. A bit bloated, right? Well the bottom photo here shows you what a spotted hyena looks like under the same circumstances. Notice that she's still going strong, continuing to feed even though her belly is almost touching the ground. Now you can also imagine how hard it is to determine when a female spotted hyena is pregnant based on her appearance; with her belly size going up and down this much during feeding and fasting, it's very tough to detect the presence of a litter that, at most, will weigh only about 3 kg!

Why eat so much at a single meal that you can barely waddle away afterward? Well, if you're a female spotted hyena, you do this because your ability to produce and support babies is strictly determined by how much food you consume. And you never know when or where your next meal might be coming from. If you were dining at McDonald's and knew you might not be able to eat again for several days, I bet you'd probably try to jam in an extra Quarter Pounders or two yourself.


Dana said...

It sure is amazing how much they can pack away.

When you observe lions that are "stuffed" they always lie down on their back or side with their legs spread to give them some relief from the full belly.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I recently realised my dream of going to Kenya and Tanzania on a wildlife safari (we did it the proper way and camped in tents!). I loved every minute and strangely felt quite at home there amongst the wildlife!

My all time favourite animal is the spotted hyena and seeing them (and hearing them near the tents at night - very exciting) were some of the highpoints of my trip. This may be a longshot, but just out of you recruit people to Africa to join your research team, or allow people to train with you or get work experience? If so, my email address is:

Any info would be greatly appreciated. I am passionate about wildlife and want to get back to Africa!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science