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Acrylic on illustration board
20" x 17"
|Although they resemble dogs, the four species of hyena are most closely related to the mongoose family. By far the largest and most powerful member of the group, the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) ranged over most of the Old World during the Pleistocene, but today is restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this, it is still a highly successful species, outnumbering other large African predators and able to function as a scavenger, pirate, solitary hunter or pack hunter. Its incredibly powerful jaws enable it to crack large bones and exploit the marrow within, which is inaccessible to other animals. Fetal female hyenas develop with high levels of androgens in their blood, a quirk resulting in their well-known mock male genitalia. Here a pair of hyenas pause over their meal, a plains zebra (Equus burchelli). Interestingly enough, it seems that the three animals we call zebras do not really constitute a discreet group, but that all modern equids evolved from a striped ancestor. Some modern forms lost their stripes, while members of two distinct lines retained theirs. This pattern does not likely serve as camouflage, but rather as a social signal to other zebras. And as for the age-old question...I say definitely white with black stripes. In the background is a small group of bronze mannikins (Lonchura cucullata).|