It’s common for people to offer each other some sort of support system in the event of adversity. Researchers, however, claim that this too is a thing for members of the animal kingdom, specifically certain species of wolves and hyenas.
The unlikely wolf-hyena alliance was spotted in Israel, where the dry, hot temperatures of the southern Negev force the gray wolf (Canis lupus) to bond with the striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena). Both animals aren’t too popular among their fellow predators, as hyenas scavenge other carnivores’ fresh kills and get into fights with wild dogs, and even lions. Wolves, on the other hand, hunt down their fellow canines, namely dogs and coyotes, as well as certain wild cats, such as lynxes.
“Animal behavior is often more flexible than described in textbooks,” said University of Tennessee assistant professor of psychology Vladimir Dinets. “When necessary, animals can abandon their usual strategies and learn something completely new and unexpected. It’s a very useful skill for people, too.”
Starting with the sighting of three gray wolf footprints and one hyena footprint in the Negev, Dinets and his fellow researcher Beniamin Eligulashvili kept track of how hyenas and wolves move together in the wild, going through the southern Negev’s desert canyons. Both species are found throughout Asia, and may exhibit similar behaviors in those areas, but the arid conditions of the Negev are what keeps the wolves and hyenas in especially close contact with each other.
The researchers believe that the strange alliance between wolf and hyena is because the former animal offers solid hunting skills, while the latter possesses a sophisticated sense of smell, as well as the ability to scavenge and break larger bones. But this alliance exists mainly because, as Dinets said, the animals “just need each other to survive, because food is so, so limited.”