Hostile conditions in the desert may have pushed those fierce rivals to team up and hunt for prey.
It is often true that hard times bring people closer to each other. That concept is evident in the animal kingdom as well.
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Researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have observed an unusual friendship between striped hyenas and grey wolves. Striped hyenas have been spotted running with a pack of grey wolves in the southern part of the Negev desert in Israel and researchers believe that the inhospitable conditions of the extreme desert might have pushed them to form a unique alliance.
Hyenas and wolves usually remain distant from each other and never work alongside other carnivores. These animals generally compete against each other for food but usual conditions can force them to respond in an unusual way.
“Animal behavior is often more flexible than described in textbooks,” said co-researcher and zoologist Beniamin Eligulashvili. “When necessary animals can abandon their unusual strategies and learn something completely new and unexpected. It’s a very useful skill for people too.”
Researchers were initially surprised to observe this unusual relationship through animal tracks. But later, they directly saw wolves and hyenas moving together in the same approximate location through a maze of canyons in the Negev desert. This kind of behavior has not been documented before about these predators.
“Non-antagonist interspecfic relations among carnivores are poorly known and difficult to study. Many such relationships probably remain undiscovered and even in better-known cases their nature is often unclear as it is virtually impossible to quantify costs and benefits.” Authors wrote in the study.
Lack of food in the desert is likely the reason why both of these usually solitary animals are leaning on one another. Wolves are more agile and able to chase down large animals in the region while hyenas have an acute sense of smell and can locate prey from many miles away.
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Striped hyenas and grey wolves coexist in many parts of the world including the Middle East and central Asia, but the Negev desert is the most arid region where they live together and team up.