Thursday, December 29, 2016

Cubdate: The Cub Boom

As Olivia and I gear up for October-December note compilations, our hyenas aren’t making it any easier for us.  We’re in the midst of the annual post-migration cub boom – where lots of mothers, both old and new, bring tiny, squittering black cubs into the world.  With the den scenes escalating in excitement, Olivia and I will be scrambling to pin all the new faces to their respective mothers before we send our notes back to the lab.  Here we provide a tri-clan demographic update of adorableness for all your favorite Serena cubbers and fluffers.

North Clan:
This immortal cross-eyed snap of Beluga shall live on infamously in the annals of the MSU Hyena Project until the end of time.  Although her face is now catching up to the rest of her body, Beluga initially grew so fast she obtained the body of an 8-month-old cub with the head of 4-month-old cub (See top-left insert, ã Olivia Spagnuolo).  This, along with her unprecedented fluffiness, made for one disproportionate-looking furball.

Cubbers: Krazy Kat (KKAT), Garfield (GARF)

Fluffers: Diva (DIVA), Déjà Vu (DEJA), Beluga (BELA)

Graduates: Momo (MOMO), Appa (APPA), Corduroy (CRDY), Paddington Bear (PDTN), Aquabat (ABAT), Beastie Boy (BSTI)

The Down-Low: Despite being the largest clan that we study in the Mara Triangle, North Clan actually had one of the quietest den scenes for quite some time.  There were only two moms (POL and TERO) and three cubs: DIVA, DEJA, and BELA (particularly endearing due to her unique body-to-face ratio).  This is partially due to MOMO, APPA, CRDY, PDTN, ABAT, and BSTI successfully graduating so early in their lives, but it was still strange.  Now there has been an explosion of prospective mothers hanging around Judith Den and we believe WAFL, TEDY (first time mom!), and FUZZ have black cubs we haven’t seen yet. RMON and GUMY (first time mom!) seem to have two cubs apiece, although we haven’t seen them nurse yet to confirm them.  INK gave birth to KKAT and GARF in early October and they are just starting to get their full coats of spots.  Pending litter sizes, this could be an exciting cohort of 12 new cubs this year.

Happy Zebra Clan:
Happy Zebra cubs from left to right: QUAK (entering a deep telecommunic state with the ground), GOLI, ORB (just look at that exquisite beauty), and SKEP (ã Olivia Spagnuolo).  As evidenced by GOLI and SKEP (top-right insert), Happy Zebra cubs are capable of obtaining infinite cuteness.  And never shall we forget OMLY (bottom insert)!

Cubbers: The Kraken (KRKN), Chupacabra (CHPA), Caribou Lou (BULU), Jungle Juice (JUJU), Skeptic (SKEP), Cosmos (CSMO)

Fluffers: Orbweaver (ORB), Goliath Bird-Eating Spider (GOLI), Quack (QUAK)

Graduates: Grace O’Malley (OMLY), Mandrake (MBRK), Harriet Tubman (TBMN)

The Down-Low: All born around the same time and still in the black cub stage: KRKN, CHPA, BULU, and JUJU are impossible to differentiate at this point aside from when they are nursing from their mothers at the den.  Soon to the join them will be cubs from suspected mothers MUON and EREM.  While we haven’t seen cubs nursing from them yet, they have been sitting, digging, and groaning into and sitting in a lot of dens holes (in MUON the Subterranean Hyena’s case actually entering dens and sacking out for hours as well!) – giveaway signs of mothers interacting with cubs too small leave the den.  The Three Musketeers of Happy Zebra Clan are ORB (the most beautiful hyena cub in all the land with her sumptuous chestnut brown coat), GOLI, and QUAK.  These three go everywhere and explore everything together.  ORB, GOLI, and QUAK are also fond of playing “kill the carrier” with animal scraps of the most paramount importance, such as wildebeest horns, zebra tails, and gazelle femurs.  As unfortunate as it may seem, QUAK is a little slow.  He’ll often approach dangerously close to zebra stallions and wind up running for his life to avoid being trampled.  Another time, QUAK followed a female hyena, squittering profusely (a vocalization signaling a desire to nurse), for about 100m away from the den – only to realize that this hyena was in fact not his mother (RING) and stare longingly at the escarpment for several minutes.  Fortunately, through a complex algorithm and rigorous cognitive testing, we have confirmed that QUAK does indeed have a brain – even if it is a bit slow on the draw.  OMLY, the most recent graduate of Happy Zebra, was the previous fan favorite due to her quirky tenacity, steadfast resolve, and general silliness.  She still manages to thwart and foil all of our attempts to collect saliva stick, novel object, and inhibition trial data.  Often lope arriving out of the blue and doing her best Jaws imitation, OMLY loves to steal meat from cognition tubes, flee with water jugs, and sever Kimbo-swathed ropes shrouded in perfectly usable cub saliva.  Oh OMLY, always #1 in our hearts…

South Clan:

This is a formation known as a “cuddle”, short for a puddle of cubs – often times only seen in South Clan due to the sheer number of cubs needed to obtain a cuddle.  Just imagine, this is only half of the cub power of South den sessions.  Any mere mortals, would instantly be immobilized by the raw cuteness.  Lots of other fun things happen in South too…like JEMI using mom as a climbable object (See top-right insert, ã Olivia Spagnuolo).

Cubbers: Lake Toba (TOBA), Kapuas River (KAPU), Lee Adama (DAMA), Mae Jemison (JEMI)

Fluffers: Galactica (GATA), Axiom (AXIO), Anubis (ANUB), Akita (KITA), Belgian Tervuren (TERV), Moriarty (MORI), Maleficent (LEFI), War Admiral (AMRL), American Pharaoh (PHRH)

Graduates: Pixie (PIXI), Mohawk (MOH), Mirage (MIRA), Moulin Rouge (ROUG), The Lorax (LRAX)

The Down-Low: South is quite simply the Den that Never Sleeps – there are 13 den dependent cubs zooming around at 1,000 mph and being super hard to keep track of.  Out of our three clans, these guys are the happiest to see us when we roll up to the den – always romping over to the Land Cruiser when we approach.  They are currently denning at Moat Den, which in combination with the sheer number of cubs in South, is quite possibly the best situation for a hyena cub to grow up in (terrible for catching behaviors though!) - lots of cubs to play romp through ponds and tall grass with.  The pranksters are DAMA and MORI – two crazy boys who love noming and dismantling our poor, old research vehicles.  TOBA, KAPU, and JEMI are the youngest cubs, with TOBA and KAPU clearly understanding that they are the daughters of the matriarch JAVA.  Exuding a quiet confidence, they don’t allow anybody to aggress on them.  Now that our cohort of fluffers are getting their long, shaggy coats, there is certainly an added a level of difficulty to identifying them around the den – especially AXIO, PHRH, LEFI, AMRL, and ANUB.  PIXI, MOH, MIRA, ROUG, and LRAX have all graduated in the last couple of months and have been congregating together at their big kid hangout spots on the Candy Bar Plains.  However, recently they’ve all taken turns visiting their little cousins back at the communal den.  Finally, even when we thought South Clan could not accommodate any more cubs than they currently had – WHIZ pops up at the communal den with a new little black cub in tow.  With their little cub army of reinforcements, South may be making the push in the next couple of years to be the largest clan we study in the Mara Triangle.

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