Spotted Hyenas: Female Dominant & Gender Ambiguous Carnivores
In spotted hyenas, females are more muscular and more aggressive than males, and are socially dominant to them, rare traits in the mammalian world. And get this: females secrete more of certain testosterone-related hormones than the males do, producing muscles, aggression, and masculinized private parts that make it supremely difficult to tell the sex of a hyena. The spotted hyena clitoris is enlarged, making it resemble a penis. And fatty tissue in the genital area grows to resemble a scrotum.
Among primates, males can get erections to show dominance. With spotted hyenas, males get erections from fear - usually because they are terrified of a female - thus showing submission to her.
In a lion pride, the male is dominant and eats first, then the female adults eat, and the cubs eat last. Lion cubs often die of starvation. With spotted hyenas, the female is dominant and the cubs are the first to eat. It is rare for a hyena cub to die of starvation.
Image credit: (x) Pirates of the Plains painting by John Banovich
Info Source: (x) and (x) Stanford University professor of Biology & Neuroscience Robert Sapolsky lecture on Aggression Part II in his Human Behavioral Biology series.
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