Prehistoric people share migration patterns with HYENAS that left Africa two million years ago due to climate change
- Researchers from Denmark discovered that hyenas underwent complex migrations
- The team said that people and hyenas probably co-existed peacefully at first
- But as people evolved, the relationship got bad for hyenas
- African and Eurasian hyenas are also not as closely linked as thought
Prehistoric people share migration patterns with hyenas – which also left Africa two million years ago due to climate change, a study finds.
Danish experts found that hyenas had undergone complex migrations across different continents, with African and Eurasian lines being clearer than imagined.
The team also found that humans co-existed with hyenas, but over time could become from relatively harmless to harmful to the hyenas.
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Prehistoric people share migration patterns with hyenas – which also left Africa two million years ago due to climate change, a study finds
Scientists have known for a long time that prehistoric humans first left Africa about two million years ago, but only recently discovered that hyenas did the same.
The study found that both types had long and complicated migration patterns between different continents, including Africa and Eurasia.
“Our new study shows that prehistoric humans and hyenas left Africa at about the same time,” said author and evolutionary genomist Michael Westbury of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Like humans, spotted hyenas have gone through extensive and complex migration between continents. We can observe repeated gene flows between Africa and Eurasia. ‘
Researchers said that although prehistoric hyenas have similarities to humans in their migration patterns, there is evidence that modern humans – Homo sapiens – likely adversely affected hyenas.
It is also believed that people played a role in the extinction of grothyena around the end of the last ice age.
The findings mean that coexistence between humans and hyenas – such as that between humans and other large mammals – may have changed from relatively benign to harmful as humans became more advanced.
This shift would have occurred about 100,000 years ago, when the earliest structures in the world were built, in Egypt.
African spotted hyenas were previously believed to have a close evolutionary link with Eurasian grothyenas, with previous DNA analyzes suggesting that the two types of hyenas were genetically mixed. However, new technology allowed the researchers to obtain much more genetic data – revealing that this mixing was limited
“Historical population sizes of spotted hyenas seem to correlate negatively with humans after about 100,000 years ago, echoing similar results we found for herbivores,” said paper author Rasmus Heller of the University of Copenhagen.
African spotted hyenas were previously believed to have a close evolutionary link with Eurasian grothyenas, with previous DNA analyzes suggesting that the two types of hyenas were genetically mixed.
However, thanks to new technology, the researchers were able to obtain much more genetic data – revealing that this mixing was limited and uncovered an old separation between the two lineages.
The findings mean that the co-existence between humans and hyenas – such as that between humans and other large mammals – may have changed from relatively benign to harmful as humans became more advanced
“The results nicely illustrate the power of palaeogenome analyzes,” says author and evolutionary biologist Michael Hofreiter of the University of Potsdam, Germany.
“The relationship between spotted hyenas and grothyenas could not be resolved using morphological or short mitochondrial DNA sequencing data and was discussed quite controversially for decades.”
The study reveals new aspects of when and how animals migrated across continents in prehistoric times, the researchers said.
“Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that animal migration may have occurred in pulses in which different species migrated more or less simultaneously, possibly in response to climate change,” said Dr. Westbury.
“More comparative work is needed to confirm this hypothesis.”
The full findings of the study are published in the journal Scientific progress.
As the spotted hyena returns to Gabon: what is it and is it in danger?
Spotted hyenas are native to Sub-Saharan Africa. File photo
The spotted hyena is found throughout Sub-Sahararn Africa.
The species, also known as the laughing hyena, is listed as the least worrying by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but poaching and habitat loss are beginning to cause dramatic population declines.
Spotted hyenas are said to be the most common large carnivore in Africa, although they are thought to originate in Asia and even traced Europe until the late Pleistocene.
In the Bateke Plateau National Park in Gabon, where spotted hyenas and other wildlife once lived, decades of poaching have left them locally extinct.
Now one of the creatures has been spotted for the first time in 20 years.