Transient genital abnormalities in striped hyenas (Hyaena hyaena)

Horm Behav. 2007 May;51(5):626-32. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.03.003. Epub 2007 Mar 14.


The highly masculinized genitalia of female spotted hyenas Crocuta crocuta is unique among mammals: Crocuta have no external vagina so urination, penile intromission and parturition take place through the clitoris, which mimics a fully erectile male penis. Among hyenids, virilization of external female genitalia has previously been observed only in Crocuta, so functional explanations of masculinization have focused on aspects of social ecology unique to the species. Here we first show that the striped hyena Hyaena hyaena exhibits both unusual similarity in male and female androgen concentrations and transient genital anomalies characterized by a convergence in genital appearance among young males and females. We then evaluate hypotheses regarding the evolution of genital masculinization in the Hyaenidae and other taxa. Hyaena are behaviorally solitary, so discovery of unusual genital development patterns in this species does not support any current evolutionary models for masculinization in Crocuta, which all rely on the trait originating within a highly social species. Some hypotheses can be modified so that masculinization in Crocuta represents an extreme elaboration of a preexisting trait, shared as a homology with Hyaena.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / anatomy & histology*
  • Genitalia, Female / growth & development
  • Genitalia, Male / anatomy & histology*
  • Genitalia, Male / growth & development
  • Hyaenidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Hyaenidae / blood
  • Hyaenidae / growth & development
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Social Environment
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Virilism / blood*


  • Testosterone