The Lion King: Why do hyenas laugh?

When we talk about the movie, ‘The Lion King’, we often think about Simba the lion, Timon the meerkat, Pumbaa the warthog and the bad guys, the laughing hyenas.

So what is a hyena and do hyenas really laugh as depicted in the movie?

The Hyenas shown in the movie are the Spotted Hyenas, Crocuta crocuta, which belong to the family of Hyaenidae. Spotted Hyenas live in a clan, which is led by a single alpha-female and a clan can consist up to 80 individuals.

Hyenas’ laugh is to depict the hyenas’ age and social status. The giggles that the hyenas give out differ in pitch and variation in the frequency of notes.

Pitch of the giggle reveals the hyenas’ age. Before hyenas reach maturity of three years of age, it is considered as a young hyena. And young hyenas tend to have a higher pitched giggle.

On the other hand, variation in the frequency of notes can give information about the hyenas’ social status, alpha-dominant females or subordinate females. Subordinate females’ calls tend to be more inconsistent while dominant females tend to not giggle too much.

The Spotted Hyenas, also famously known as the Laughing Hyenas, really do laugh! So when you encounter a laughing hyena next time, you should be able to know what the hyena is laughing about!

Links To Secondary Source:

The journal of the Acoustical Society of American, Volume 125, Issue 4, pp. 2709 (April 2009): The hyena’s laugh as a multi-informative signal (A). Retrieved from Accessed on 8 April 2010


Google image, The Lion King. Retrieved from Accessed on 8 April 2010


Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Spotted Hyena. Retrieved from Accessed on 8 April 2010

“Hyena giggles no laughing matter” by Jason Palmer, 12 May 2009. Accessed on 8 April 2010

Invasion of the Red Crabs!

Christmas Island Crab Invasion

Whilst some species of crabs may seem common on our regular seafood dinner table, this particular species may not be as they are toxic to human beings. The red crabs, Gecarcoidea natalis, are endemic to the forests of Christmas Island, located in north-west of Australia in the Indian Ocean. Their mating season occurs annually during the monsoon season, where they have to migrate to the coast for breeding.

At the coast, the male crab would have to fight with other males to gain the rights to dig a burrow in which mating occurs. This is a demonstration of greater fitness than rivals. The female will be left in the burrow where she brood the eggs in a pouch on her abdomen. The female will release her eggs into the sea after a lapse of 12 days. These eggs hatch immediately into tiny larvae.

In migrating to the coast from the forests, the crabs have to go through obstacles like roads, where vehicles are prevalent. This poses a threat to the crabs as they face the danger of getting crushed by oncoming vehicles. In order to protect the red crabs from getting crushed on the roads by vehicles during the migration period, the local authorities have closed a few roads.

In addition, the migration of the red crabs has become such a phenomenon that it is now used to attract tourists as this spectacular sight is hard to find in other countries.


  1. “Christmas Island Crab,” by BBC Science and Nature, July 2005. URL: on 5 Apr 2010).  
  2.  “Science Screen Report: The Amazing Red Crab of Christmas Island !,” by Allegrosjf YouTube Channel, 25 September 2009 . URL: (accessed on 5 Apr 2010)
  3. “Red Crabs,” by Environment Australia. URL: on 6 Apr 2010)
  4. Agnieszka M. Adamczewska, Stephen Morris, 2001. Ecology and Behavior of Gecarcoidea natalis, the Christmas Island Red Crab, during the Annual Breeding Migration. Biological Bulletin, 200(3): 305-320
  5. “Christmas Island: kingdom of the crab,” by Nick Squires., 21 Oct 2007. URL: xxx (accessed on 6 Apr 2010).