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Keywords:

  • diet;
  • Jacobs' index;
  • predation preference;
  • preferred prey weight range

Abstract

Spotted hyaenas Crocuta crocuta were once considered mere scavengers; however, detailed research revealed that they are very efficient predators. Information on what spotted hyaenas actually prefer to prey on and what they avoid is lacking, as well as the factors that influence prey selection. Data from 14 published and one unpublished study from six countries throughout the distribution of the spotted hyaena were used to determine which prey species were preferred and which were avoided using Jacobs' index. The mean of these values for each species was used as the dependent variable in multiple regression, with prey abundance and prey body mass as predictive variables. In stark contrast to the rest of Africa's large predator guild, spotted hyaenas do not preferentially prey on any species. Also surprisingly, only buffalo, giraffe and plains zebra are significantly avoided. Spotted hyaena most prefer prey within a body mass range of 56–182 kg, with a mode of 102 kg. The dietary niche breadth of the spotted hyaena is similar to that of the lion Panthera leo, and the two species have a 58.6% actual prey species overlap and a 68.8% preferred prey species overlap. These results highlight the flexible and unselective nature of spotted hyaena predation and are probably a reason for the species' success throughout its range, despite a large degree of dietary overlap with lions.