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  • Hi, this is Kate from MinuteEarth.

  • And this is Scarface, one of the hyenas I studied in Kenya; and like all male spotted

  • hyenas, his life sucks.

  • Babyhood is actually the pinnacle of a male hyena’s life.

  • Itty-bitty cubs of both sexes rank just below their moms, who make up the entire top of

  • the clan's social hierarchymore on that later.

  • So cubs have decent access to food, sleeping spots, and everything else.

  • But male cubsglory days are short.

  • Females generally don’t like mating with males from the clan they grew up in - it’s

  • probably nature’s way of avoiding inbreeding.

  • So once males turn two or so, they leave their clan and strike out on a lonely, dangerous

  • search for a clan with better mating prospects.

  • Lots of other mammalian males do the same thing, but for them, the transition to a new

  • group is an opportunity to challenge high-ranking individuals and increase their social standing.

  • Not so for male hyenas.

  • They endure aggressive hazing by the new clan before even being allowed to join, and once

  • a male does gain acceptance, he becomes the very lowest-ranking hyena in the

  • order.

  • The tastiest food rarely makes its way down to him, and there’s no way to move up the

  • social hierarchy besides simply waiting: either for new males to join the clan below him or

  • for males ahead of him to die.

  • No adult male will ever top a single female, resulting in a female-dominated hierarchy.

  • This is all...weird; unlike most mammals, male hyenas are subordinate to females.

  • Which is probably because, unlike most mammals, female hyenas are bigger and meaner than males,

  • which is probably thanks to their need to stand up for their offspring in this kind

  • of crazy feeding frenzy.

  • And unlike pretty much all mammals, physically fit or socially capable individuals can’t

  • make their way to the top of hyena society to do most of the decision- and baby-making.

  • Theyre the only social mammals we know of with such a rigid hierarchy, and we don’t

  • yet know why.

  • We do know the outcome, though.

  • Male hyenas like Scarface end up plagued with injuries from harassment & hazing, endure

  • prematurely worn-down teeth from eating too many bones, and on average, only live as half

  • as long females do.

  • The best they can hope for is that, at the end of the day, theyll have left behind

  • a few cubs - which is not the best for the ones that turn out to be males.

  • While I was getting my PhD, I spent several years in Kenya studying hyenas like Scarface.

  • And the rest of the MinuteEarth team has done amazing research and explored all sorts of

  • cool places, too.

  • To find out about the adventures of the MinuteEarth team, learn how we make videos, and ask us

  • your burning questions, join us for an livestreamed q&a on our Patreon page at

  • - well put the details below.

  • While youre there, consider becoming a Patron; just a dollar a video from you means

  • we won’t have to resort to gnawing on bones to survive.

Hi, this is Kate from MinuteEarth.

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