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Uploaded on on Jul 15, 2021


Hyenas, also known as hyaenas (from the Ancient Greek v, haina), are feliform carnivoran animals belonging to the Hyaenidae family (/handi/). It is the smallest biological family in the Carnivora and one of the smallest in the class Mammalia, with only four living species (in three genera). Hyenas are distinctive and important components of most African ecosystems, despite their low diversity.

Despite being phylogenetically closer to felines and viverrids, hyenas, as members of the Feliformia suborder, are behaviorally and morphologically similar to canids in several ways due to convergent evolution; both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters who catch prey with their teeth rather than claws.

Their calloused feet with big, blunt, nonretractable claws are designed for sprinting and making sharp bends, and they devour food fast and may store it. Hyenas’ grooming, scent marking, defecation habits, mating, and parental behavior, on the other hand, are similar to those of other feliforms.

Hyenas are well-represented in the folklore and mythology of the human civilizations that coexist with them. Hyenas are usually seen as scary and deserving of scorn. Hyenas are considered to have the ability to affect people’s souls, plunder tombs, and kidnap animals and children in various civilizations. Other cultures equate them with witchcraft, and traditional African medicine uses their body parts.

Hyenas evolved 22 million years ago in the Miocene Eurasia rainforests when most early feliform animals were still mostly arboreal. Plioviverrops, a lithe, civet-like mammal that roamed Eurasia 20–22 million years ago and is recognizable as a hyaenid by the anatomy of the middle ear and teeth, was one of the first hyena species recorded. Plioviverrops thrived, giving birth to offspring with longer legs and more pointed jaws, a trend similar to that seen in canids in North America. Hyenas then split into two groups: light-weight dog-like hyenas and powerful bone-crushing hyenas.


Although dog-like hyenas flourished 15 million years ago (one taxon even colonized North America), they became extinct when the temperature changed, and canids arrived in Eurasia. Only the insectivorous aardwolf remained from the dog-like hyena lineage, while the bone-crushing hyenas (including the current spotted, brown, and striped hyenas) became Eurasia’s and Africa’s uncontested top scavengers.

Plioviverrops’ descendants reached their apex 15 million years ago, with more than 30 species discovered. These dog-like hyenas were nimble-bodied, wolfish creatures, unlike most current hyena species, which are specialized bone-crushers; one species among them was Ictitherium viverrinum, which was akin to a jackal. The dog-like hyenas were numerous; the remnants of Ictitherium and other dog-like hyenas surpass those of all other carnivores combined in several Miocene fossil sites.

Canids crossing the Bering land bridge to Eurasia accelerated the fall of dog-like hyenas, which began 5–7 million years ago during a time of climatic change. Only one hyena species, Chasmaporthetes ossifragus, has successfully crossed the land bridge into North America. Chasmaporthetes managed to live in North America for a while by diverging from the canid-dominated cursorial and bone-crushing niches and evolving into a cheetah-like sprinter. By 1.5 million years ago, the majority of dog-like hyenas had gone out.

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