Not all hyenas laugh. Only spotted hyenas “laugh” among the four hyena species. These sounds appear to be made by hyenas when they are in a social conflict, such as fighting for food. Hyenas do indeed laugh when they eat carcasses or get into fights.
Hyenas are viewed as filthy scavengers traversing the savannah in quest of food because of their difficult social groups, cunning, and nocturnal lifestyle. Add in their maniacal laughter, which they emit whenever they viciously slaughter their prey. Not everything is as it seems…
To begin with, not every hyena laughs. Only spotted hyenas “laugh” among the four hyena species. They also have the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom in proportion to their body size. Second, our experience of their laughter is the unconscious projection of human emotions onto their inhuman behavior, which is frequently done to make sense of their acts.
It is natural for people to personify animals or even inanimate objects. Our remarkable and undeniable social character is shown in the study of animal behavior, the assignment of basic human emotions to it, and the recognition of faces in ordinary items. When you find your dog ripping up its pillow, he doesn’t feel “sorry.”
When it comes to hyenas, “laughing” is simply one of their many sounds. Of fact, it isn’t aimless, but the reason for it and the motivation behind it are diametrically opposed to what we often connect with humor.
Why are they acting in this manner?
Nicolas Mathevon, a scientist at Jean Monnet University, and his colleagues monitored 17 captive hyenas in Berkeley. The researchers captured their voices and used acoustic analysis to figure out how various people’s voices differed. Each giggle’s length, frequency (pitch), and amplitude (loudness) were measured. The end product was fantastic.
These sounds appear to be made by hyenas when they engage in a social conflict, such as fighting over food. When eating on carcasses or getting into fights, hyenas have been observed giggling. The laughter that is hysterical is a symptom of disappointment and a cry for help!
It also reflects the hyena’s social standing and aids in determining the giggler’s position in the social hierarchy. According to the researchers, the pitch is inversely associated with social rank, with subordinates producing more diversified and higher-pitched noises than dominant low-voiced ones.
Survival in the wild has only two constraints: time and energy. It should be no surprise that food is vital for existence, but it comes at the cost of a trade-off between the two. When an animal descends into the night empty-handed, deprived of food – its main energy source – it becomes concerned, especially when it observes the sunset. The light is constantly decreasing, and there is a finite amount of time to find food.
As a result, any food attracts a large number of predators. In hyena populations, a fierce struggle for food can often lead to bloodshed. They violently bite and beat each other while attempting to bite off a piece of carcass at least once. An injured or unfairly deprived hyena’s frantic behavior is followed by her maniacal laughing. This is why the researchers think it’s more of a disappointment test.
What does it signify when a hyena laughs?
Because of the inconsistencies in their social structure, their organizations are extremely complicated, necessitating the need for excellent communication methods. Because of the differences in pitch and volume that are related to their age and social rank in the group, such a scream may only allow them to recognize each other by giggling. As a result, screaming can be used to encode social information.
When hyenas congregate around freshly slain prey, they frequently laugh. Laughter could indicate that a murder has occurred or that the caller is being attacked.
This, on the other hand, merely accentuates their need for food or any other resource. “When the hyena’s neighbors hear a giggling congener, they may receive information about the giggler in terms of individual identification, age, or status, and elect to join the giggling or, conversely, ignore him and depart,” Nicolas concludes.
Finally, hyena communication isn’t restricted to simply laughs. Deep and loud moans are also part of their vocal range, indicating some other feeling, most likely dominance. The wilderness is already filled with monsters possessed by an insatiable need for flesh and blood. A nasty beast gloating at its vanquished prey is the last thing it needs.