Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Mother's Love

In the world of a spotted hyena, family bonds are important. And no bond is more important than the one between a mother and her children.

Angie and her cub Winchester

Clovis and her cub Wasabi

From the moment they’re born to about 14 months of age, hyena cubs depend completely on their mothers for food and protection. Even after they are weaned, young hyenas may rely on Mom for several more years to help them stake a claim on carcasses. Hyenas don’t fully develop the jaws that give them their famous bone-crushing strength until they’re 2 years old. A 2009 paper from our project even hypothesized that spotted hyenas may have developed female dominance for this very reason. Unable to defend themselves at a fresh kill or to crack open the bones of an abandoned carcass, a weaned adolescent hyena might never get a meal without a protective mom to step in. Essentially, female hyenas evolved to be bigger and meaner in order to give their kids more of a fighting chance (Watts et al., 2009).

Muon with her cub Killer Queen.

Snapper with one of her cubs (either Martini or Julep. It's hard to tell when they're upside-down!)
And boy, do those mothers fight. Some of the most intense aggressions we see occur when a mother thinks her cub has been threatened. The sound of a cub in distress is certain to bring Mama running from the other side of the den, ready to take a chunk out of whoever looks guilty – even if they weren’t the one to attack the cub! In defense of her child, I guess mothers bite first and ask questions later.
TRex grooming her cub Where's the Goat. 
It’s a rough world out there for a baby hyena, so it’s a good thing they have such fierce protectors on their side. Here’s to you, hyena moms!

Pike (the collared female) with her numerous offspring (Lance, Morningstar, Claymore and Arbaletta) and grand-offspring (Recluse and Tarantula). Nice family photo, guys!

Work Cited:

Watts, H. E., Tanner, J. B., Lundrigan, B. L., & Holekamp, K. E. (2009). Post-weaning maternal effects and the evolution of female dominance in the spotted hyena. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1665), 2291–2298.

1 comment:

dee said...

Great post, Erin, I love seeing the Serena animals! I just finished up Happy Zebra 2014 and now am into Serena North.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science