Hyena Extinction in Europe Studied

MADRID, Sept. 23 (UPI) — “Why are there no hyenas in Europe?” may not be a question on everybody’s lips but Spanish scientists say they’ve asked — and answered — the question.

A team from the Spain’s National Museum of Natural Sciences has analyzed the impact of climate change on spotted hyena survival in Europe over 10,000 years ago, and say it — along with human expansion and changes in vegetation — contributed to the extinction of the species across the European continent, a release from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology says.

“Climate change in the past was not directly responsible for the extinction of the spotted hyena in southern Europe, but it was a factor in its disappearance,” researcher Sara Varela says.

The study say the hyena populations of Africa and Eurasia became separated during the glacial maximum and “the climatic conditions in southern Europe 21,000 years ago were extreme for this species,” Varela says.

At that time, the European climate was undergoing “drastic” changes, as were plant populations and human expansion.

“The survival of the hyenas could have been affected by the combination of these three factors acting in synergy, but not by the action of the climate alone,” Varela says.

The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) became extinct in Europe at the end of the late Pleistocene, around 10,000 years ago. Today it is only found in Africa, but during the Pleistocene the spotted hyena also inhabited Eurasia.

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