Exotic foreign males are most attractive - for female spotted hyenas at least. It’s this female preference for the unusual that drives young males to leave their clan and seek out another pack. After all, for hyenas as well as humans, diversity is the spice of life.
Every year early 90 per cent of male spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) leave their birth clan and disperse to pastures new, but until now it has never been clear what drives them away. Are they are avoiding competition for mates, trying to preserve resources for the rest of the pack, or avoiding inbreeding?
None of the above, say researchers led by Oliver Höner of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany, who have been monitoring all 400 hyenas in the Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania, since 1996. They have shown that the females are running the show, driving males to leave by selectively mating with immigrants from outside the pack and leaving the ‘pack males’ to take increasingly cold showers.
“We found that female hyenas prefer to mate with males who have immigrated into their pack, or who were born into the clan after the female was born,” says Höner. By following this simple rule, females avoid inbreeding and help to maintain the genetic health of the pack.
None of the males could be reached for comment.