Hypercarnivory, durophagy or generalised carnivory in the Mio-Pliocene hyaenids of South Africa?


  • Adam Hartstone-Rose Department of Cell Biology & Anatomy, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia, SC, USA
  • Deano D. Stynder Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa




hyena, Carnivora, Langebaanweg, Miocene, osteophagy


Carnivorans, the members of the order Carnivora, exhibit wide dietary diversity – from overwhelmingly herbivorous species (like the giant and red pandas) to species that specialise in the consumption of flesh (like the hypercarnivorous felids). Throughout the evolution of this order, many craniodental forms have emerged and gone extinct – notably the sabretooth felids that existed until the late Pleistocene. However, one carnivoran lineage, remarkable for its extreme masticatory adaptations, persists – the bone-cracking hyaenids. Three of the four extant members of this family (Crocuta crocutaHyaena hyaena and Parahyaena brunnea) are among the most durophagous mammals to have ever lived. The fourth extant hyaenid – the aardwolf (Proteles cristatus) – also exhibits impressive, although wholly different, masticatory adaptations as one of the most derived mammalian insectivores. How and when did the level of durophagy evident in extant bone-cracking hyenas evolve, and how do Mio-Pliocene hyenas compare to the extant members of the order in terms of their own dietary specialisations? An examination of the premolars of the Mio-Pliocene hyaenids from Langebaanweg, South Africa suggests that modern levels of durophagy appeared relatively recently. Results from an analysis of dental radii-of-curvature and premolar intercuspid notches suggest that these hyenas were neither bone crackers nor flesh specialists, but were dietary generalists.


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How to Cite

Hartstone-Rose, A., & Stynder, D. D. (2013). Hypercarnivory, durophagy or generalised carnivory in the Mio-Pliocene hyaenids of South Africa?. South African Journal of Science, 109(5/6), 10. https://doi.org/10.1590/sajs.2013/20120040



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