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Falling short of status no laughing matter for hyenas


Like all spotted hyena newborns, she spills onto the Kenyan grassland with open eyes and a full set of teeth. But as the daughter of a high-ranking mother in a matriarchal society, she also inherits an advantage over many of the local cubs: an enviable social status.

Within weeks, after moving to a communal den that serves as the hyena equivalent of daycare, she begins engaging and play-fighting with up to 30 of her peers. About 80% of the time, she could be expected to emerge from that daycare with the exact same rank that she entered it — near the top of the local hyena hierarchy.

But a funny thing happens on the way to adulthood. MORE

Header image: Eli Strauss.

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