Hyenas are an animal with a rich history and folklore. Today they are only found in Africa but they were once more widespread. A new discovery has now shown that hyenas once lived in the Arctic. This finding not only highlights the incredible resilience of these animals but also may provide the missing link in understanding how the hyena once migrated to North America.
The hyena is a devastating scavenger. Traveling in packs the animals are known to devour whatever animal they kill or carcass they find. Many biologists see them as the most efficient animal as they eat almost everything from an animal carcass.
Hyenas appear to have arrived in the Miocene era in Eurasia. They then evolved into two separate streams, one, the dog-like hyena, the second, the bone-crushing hyena. The dog hyenas were lightly built and became extinct when the climate changed in Eurasia. The bone crushers were more strongly built and are still in existence today. The bone crushers got their name for their ability to break down bones, leaving very little of the carcass unused.
Scientists have now found two teeth that are from hyenas further North than the Arctic Circe. The date and location of these teeth show that hyenas roamed the world during the ice age. Before this discovery, there was no explanation as to how Eurasian hyenas made their way to North America. This discovery shows that they would have used the Beringia land bridge to get across.
The latest scientific discovery was able to show the legacy of the hyena, how its ancestors were present in many countries in the past. Today the hyena only lives in Arica and only 4 breeds remain. This lack of diversity is a threat to the future population as if some virus or disease killed off any of these breeds, all would be in considerable danger. Hopefully, this new discovery is a clue to the breeds that have been extinct and can be used to ensure history does not repeat itself.