Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea) Distribution: Nuances in Modeling a Generalist Species

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The brown hyena plays a critical role as a top carnivore across southern Africa alongside other megafauna including lions and cheetahs. However, because it is perceived to face fewer threats to its population, there are fewer research efforts aimed at understanding its distribution and spatial ecology. The Hyaena Distribution Mapping Project in partnership with the IUCN Hyaena Specialist Group is currently working to update the global range map of the brown hyena. A critical follow up to this work is the creation of a species distribution model to better understand the environmental factors that affect their spatial ecology. However, given the wide variation of habitat types within the hyena’s range, a single model may not be sufficient to capture the nuances within their global distribution. I created a global model of the brown hyena as well as two biome specific models, one for Deserts and Xeric Shrublands and one for Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands as defined by the World Wildlife Fund. I propose that brown hyena ecology varies based on the specific ecosystem of an individual and that by modeling their distribution at a biome level we can better predict potential habitat. However, a general model may still be informative as hyenas do range widely, and one individual can take advantage of a variety of habitats. By comparing these models and their performance, we can create a more robust description of how brown hyena ecology varies throughout southern Africa.





Killea, Allison (2020). Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea) Distribution: Nuances in Modeling a Generalist Species. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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