A Hyena’s Tale

Dr. Kay Holekamp

The Hefner Museum of Natural History is pleased to present the 45th annual Hefner Lecture featuring renowned hyena researcher Dr. Kay Holekamp. The below presentation was streamed live from Benton Hall, Miami University on November 7th, 2019. We hope you enjoy learning about the fascinating world of the often misunderstood hyenas!

Hyenas: Intelligent, social, matriarchal, vicious, loving, enigmatic. Learn more about these amazing animals through the engaging stories and compelling data collected by Dr. Holekamp over the last three decades. Dr. Holekamp is the University Distinguished Professor of Integrative Biology and Director of Michigan State University’s interdisciplinary program in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior.

Presentation Notes

@2:30 Why study hyenas? Dr. Kay Holekamp answers this question by describing the unique features of hyena digestion, immunity, and social structure that make them such compelling research subjects. 

@6:26 Kay describes hyena sexuality including masculinization of female reproductive parts. 

@8.03 An overview of maternal care in hyenas. They are fantastic mothers using communal dens and more. 

@12:00 Discussion of the sex role reversals in hyena clan society that break conventional rules of mammalian biology. 

@13:37 Dr. Holekamp describes her long-term study of hyenas in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve including details of field camp life and research methods.

@21:25 The hyenas have a system of social ranks. The higher ranks are allowed to feed first, and once they are full then the lower ranks feed. This difference in the amount of food received by them is clearly visible in their kids. A rank one mom’s kid is much healthier and larger than the kid of mom ranked 19th.

@19:10 “Winners” and “losers” of agonistic interactions withing hyena clans. Differences in immigrant females and breeding females in the dominance hierarchy and how it determines who feeds when. How dominance continues through matrilines. 

@22:37 Comparison of spotted hyenas with other extant hyenid species. 

@24:00 Debunking the myth that hyenas predominantly are scavengers. 

@25:43 Breaking down the kill sequence of hyenas, including average hunting group size, and speed of consuming prey. 

@31.32 The importance of conserving hyenas as large carnivores that are numerically abundant and widely distributed across Africa. 

@42:00 Kay discusses hyena-human conflicts including snares and mass poisoning. 

@49:00 Questions and answers for Kay. Apologize for poor audio for part of this!