The Mind of the Hyena

By Carl Zimmer | March 3, 2008 10:33 pm

hyenas.jpgHyenas are fascinating in many ways, such as the way female spotted hyenas are equipped with a penis of sorts (pdf). In tomorrow’s New York Times, I look at a new kind of fascination: hyena brains. Hyenas have a remarkably complex social life, and it appears to have altered the shape and size of their brains. The same social forces were at work in our own ancestors. Humans and hyenas, in other words, have been rolling on parallel evolutionary tracks.

For further details, check out the densely packed web site of Kay Holekamp, the biologist who has been investigating the social hyena brain. And don’t miss the slide show the Times has put together for my article.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Brains, Evolution
MORE ABOUT: Evolution

Comments (3)

  1. Anon

    Shouldn’t this be titled “The brain of the Hyena”? The article speaks only of brain and of social behavior; nothing of “mind” (kudos for that, by the way!). The topic is difficult enough without implicit language of dualism thrown in.

    Excellent article!

  2. Hans

    Great article! It’s interesting that early hominids were also scavengers, some also termite foragers. Something about scavenging groups making them smart…
    Well, now when I sit with my kids to watch the Lion King, it will be from a different perspective. :)

  3. George

    Wonderful piece. I’ll point y’all to a cool new book from Prestel, “The Hyena & Other Men” by Adetokunbo Abiola and photographer Pieter Hugo (ISBN 978-3-7913-3960-3). It’s about “Hyena Men” in Nigeria, who perform shows with “pet” adult hyenas, baboons, and snakes. Incredible stuff.

    Cheers, Carl.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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