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Endocrine aspects of sexual mimicry in Spotted hyaenas Crocuta crocuta

Authors

  • P. A. Racey,

    1. Department of Zoology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, U.K. and Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Republic of South Africa
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  • J. D. Skinner

    1. Department of Zoology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, U.K. and Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Republic of South Africa
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Abstract

Female Spotted hyaenas mimic the male in the possession of a peniform and highly erectile clitoris and false scrotum. Sex hormones have been assayed in the blood plasma, gonads and adrenal glands of male and female Spotted hyaenas and in the blood plasma of Striped and Brown hyaenas. Although the testicular concentration of testosterone greatly exceeds that of the ovaries in Spotted hyaenas, there is no significant difference between the sexes in the mean plasma levels of this hormone, or of the other androgen assayed, andro-stenedione. In contrast, male Brown and Striped hyaenas have far higher plasma concentrations of testosterone than females.

Testosterone levels in twin female Spotted hyaena foetuses were similar to the mean for adult females and it is suggested that high foetal androgen levels are responsible for the appearance of the male sexual facies in adult female Spotted hyaenas. The high plasma androgen levels recorded in adult females may also be associated with their aggression and dominance of males.

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