When hyena sex goes wrong (and boy, does it), it's hard not to cackle just a little.
Researchers with Tanzania's long-running Spotted Hyena Project have seen their share of weird and wonderful hyena behaviour – studying the eight clans that inhabit the country's Ngorongoro Crater region, they say, is a bit like watching "Game of Thrones". Indeed.
The spotted male suitor in this encounter is known to the team as "Jage", and things should have gone much better for him: after months of courting, he'd finally won over a high-ranking female in his clan. The only problem? Jage had gorged himself earlier in the day, and it turns out bloated bellies can get in the way of mating prowess – especially when a certain level of coordination is required.
Behavioural ecologist Eve Davidian explains over at the Hyena Project blog:
It should be pointed out that mating is a very tricky task for male spotted hyenas because females’ private parts are masculinized into a pseudo-penis. This means that reaching seventh heaven requires full cooperation from the female – she has to stand still, put her head down and retract her pseudo-penis. But even when the female does cooperate, the male still has to show great acrobatic skills. It does take males some time and practice to get it right, and those with little experience usually are clumsy and sorely try the female’s patience.
Clearly, Jage's breakfast binge ensured the required level of acrobatic skill was nowhere to be seen. According to Davidian, there was no sign of cubs four months later (that's the gestation period for female spotted hyenas), suggesting he'd missed his chance.
"[Jage] wanted it all, to feast and to mate, but he learnt the hard way that one sometimes has to choose," she adds.
Better luck next time, Jage.
Top header image: Johannes H. Jensen, Flickr