HyenaHyena — Hyenas or Hyænas are moderately large terrestrial carnivores native to Africa, Arabia, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. They are members of the family Hyaenidae. The family comprises four species, the Aardwolf, Brown Hyena, Spotted Hyena, and Striped Hyena.

Although hyenas bear some physical resemblance to canids, they make up a separate biological family that is most closely related to Herpestidae (the family of mongooses and meerkats). All species have a distinctly bear-like gait due to their front legs being longer than their back legs. The aardwolf, striped hyena and brown hyena have striped pelts and manes lining the top of their necks which erect when frightened. The spotted hyena’s fur is considerably shorter and is spotted rather than striped. Unlike other species, its mane is reversed forwards. Spotted hyenas have a strong bite proportional to their size, but the view that they have the strongest bite is a myth, and a number of other animals (including the Tasmanian devil) have proportionately stronger bites.

Spotted Hyenas, and, to a lesser extent, Striped and Brown Hyenas, have powerful carnassial teeth adapted for cutting flesh and crushing premolars for crushing bone. The Aardwolf has greatly reduced cheek teeth, that are sometimes absent in the adult, but otherwise has the same dentition as the other three species

All hyena species are efficient scavengers as well as hunters. They have extremely strong jaws in relation to their body size and have a very powerful digestive system with highly acidic fluids, making them capable of eating and digesting their entire prey, including skin, teeth, horns, bones and even hooves. Since they eat carrion, their digestive system deals very well with bacteria.

The spotted hyena is primarily a predator, unlike its cousins. Spotted hyenas are successful pack hunters of small to large sized ungulates and are the most abundant carnivore on the African continent.

The aardwolf is a specialised feeder of termites, thus lacking the size and physical power of its cousins.

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