Hyenas 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.
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.
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. :)
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.