In recent years, we have found evidence in the Negev Desert of the Middle East of a striped hyena, a solitary carnivoran, tagging along with a pack of wolves. This sort of alliance is found nowhere else on Earth, and we're still not sure if this was just a one-time deal.

But in an alternate Earth, this sort of alliance runs far and deep. So deep, in fact, that both species--wolves and hyenas, doesn't matter where we're talking--have evolved symbiotic relationships with each other. We've seen these sorts of results when we turned wild canids into domesticated dogs--our growing symbiotic relationships with them have resulted in some behavioral and morphological changes.

So in an alternate Earth where wolf packs and hyena clans have evolved to live side-by-side, would we expect to see any anatomical and behavioral changes as a result of these symbiotic relationships?

  • $\begingroup$ are they sapient, or just a normal animal? $\endgroup$
    – Thỏ Già
    Nov 19, 2019 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ @ThỏGià The latter. $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2019 at 5:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wonder, would it make sense to note subspecies? I imagine species that are pretty close would be unlikely to bond together. But like humans and dogs -- we took wolves and turned them into dogs that are only very rarely capable of being dangerous to us. But dogs are still really useful, because they can eat garbage and fill gaps in our hunting capabilities. I imagine wolves could use hyenas as sort of brawlers (for tired out prey) or hyenas could use wolves to harry, but it would probably depend on which was bigger. $\endgroup$
    – Zwuwdz
    Nov 19, 2019 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ Is it an alliance? Or has the hyena learned to scavenge off the wolf pack kills, and the wolves don't really care enough to chase the hyena away? $\endgroup$
    – puppetsock
    Nov 19, 2019 at 18:11

3 Answers 3


Symbiosis between two species that require the same resources is rare in nature - since they are natural competitors, the more successful one party is, the less successful the other will be.

When it happens, it tends to occur when two animals have very different skills, allowing them to benefit from each other. Coyotes and badgers, for example, will team up to hunt prey - even though they are competing with each other (only one gets the meal in the end) the chance of either one getting the meal is still improved - if the prey runs the coyote will catch it, and if it hides in a hole the badger will catch it.

Usually, wolves and hyenas are competitors. In the particular case in the Negev, one theory is that wolves are better at chasing and killing prey, while hyenas have a better sense of smell and are able to break open bones for the marrow - as well as human-made containers like garbage and tin cans.

In a world where this partnership is common, wolves and hyenas may specialize further - wolves becoming faster, and hyenas becoming stronger. Perhaps the wolves could chase, harass, and distract the prey, allowing the hyenas to move in for a killing bite.


Canids cooperate with other species.

badger and coyote cooperating

https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/coyote-and-badger-hunt-together Here a badger and coyote cooperate. In a pack of coyotes or wolves, only the alphas reproduce. The rest of the pack is along because they are related to the alphas, or in the hopes that they will survive better with the pack until such time as they can reproduce with their own kind.

The example in the OP of the striped hyena is more analogous to the badger - a solitary predator who cooperates with a canid. I credit the coyote with probably bringing the badger along - canids cooperate with lots of other species including other carnivores, birds and our primate selves.

In the cooperative scenario envisioned by Dailey I could imagine one or more hyenas, ousted from the pack for political reasons and seeking refuge with the wolf pack. Probably the hyenas in residence will be at the bottom of the pack but it is better than being killed by your former pack and new alpha.

I like the idea of the wolf pack with assorted others associated - the hyena, the crow, the badger and weasel, the mongoose. It feels like a Disney movie. I can imagine the voices!

  • $\begingroup$ None of this sounds symbiotic. $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2019 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe "symbiosis" means something different to you. If so, be more specific about what you would like to see. Here is the definition of symbiosis from wikipedia: "Symbiosis ... is any type of a close and long-term biological interaction between two different biological organisms, be it mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic." $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Nov 19, 2019 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ You just said that--"close and LONG-TERM". A couple of random outcasts do not qualify as such. It needs to be tighter-knit and multigenerational. $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2019 at 21:40

Didn't dogs develop from wolves who associated with packs of humans for generation after generation? The cooperation between wolves and humans made dogs what they are today and may have influenced human biology and/or culture.

So theories about the history of dogs might be good place to start researching how wolves & hyenas would influence each other.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .