Monday, September 29, 2014


JAWS! I bet the first thing that comes to mind when you hear JAWS is not the spotted hyena but the great white shark. Stephen Spielberg made the jaw of the great white shark the trending topic of the summer of his blockbuster release. While the great white shark has a mouth that is a force to be reckoned with, the spotted hyena also holds its ground in the ferocious jaw category.  Hyenas may be smaller in stature compared to the other carnivores of the animal kingdom but what they lack in size they make up for with a powerful bite!

Hyenas have colossal jaw muscles. These jaw muscles produce about 9,000 Newtons of bite force. A hyena can possess a bite force 40% stronger than a leopard. Hyenas also have the ability to crack through bones of varying degrees of thickness. Our researchers here at Fisi camp have witnessed these bone crushing jaws in action.

Hyenas are skilled hunters who not only take down preys much larger than themselves but also eat a tremendous amount in a short period of time. Hyenas take down over 90% of the food they eat. We often see many of our hyenas leaving carcass sessions obese.

JUBA, a Talek West hyena demonstrates the power of his jaw on a wildebeest.

The jaw and teeth of hyena not only gives us insight into its powerful abilities but also gives clues to its ranking within the clan. During a darting one of things we do are dental measurements. We also look for broken or missing teeth during this process. One of the measurements we take is called the occlusal surface. We take this measurement from the PM3 (premolar teeth located between the canine and molar). This surface is the portion of the tooth that receives contact. Low ranking hyenas have larger occlusal surfaces than higher rankers. Lower rankers are more likely to feed on the bones of animals instead of meat and other organs. Since they have a tougher meal to chew their teeth become worn down much more quickly. A powerful jaw is a handy tool when it comes to extracting marrow from the bones of prey.

RSWL, a Talek West male hyena giving us his best smile :). Notice the broken teeth and cavities!

Keep visiting the blog for more updates and information about your favorite hyenas!

1 comment:

dee said...

Great post Ashlei, wonder what your Dad thinks about all those teeth. Love the photos!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science