Apr 19, 2017 07:41 PM EDT
A 25-year long study yields a surprising find about the spotted hyena - they are immune to infectious diseases that kill lions, wolves, and other predators. Periodically, other members of the big feline family suffer and die from infectious diseases and viruses. Rabies and canine distemper viruses are common, save for the spotted hyena.
According to Professor Kay Holekamp, it is significant to study the immune system of the spotted hyena and what makes them survive when others cannot. There is a particular focus on the trigger behind spotted hyena's durability against deadly pathogens. So here is the extensive study that spans more than two decades just to decode the immunology mechanism of this animal.
Holekamp and his team analyzed the antibodies found in the spotted hyena's blood serum. The spotted hyena has genes that are almost the same to that of common cats, according to PhysOrg. The hyenas are a close cousin of the Felis catus, despite its physical resemblance to dogs. So if the spotted hyena has antibodies that are as normal as a common cat, is there any mystery behind their immunity to viruses?
The study suggests that there are other factors to consider. For example, a spotted hyena that lived his life entirely in the wild develops considerable immunity to infectious diseases. On the contrary, Holekamp discovered that those in captivity have a tendency to become less immune.
Another factor is the nourishment that the clan leaders of the spotted hyenas receive. Because of bigger food portions, high-ranking hyenas develop better immunity, the Smithsonian said. Lactating hyenas are usually less immune because they are passing the nutrients to their cubs.
Lastly, scientists believe that environment and social structure plays a vital role in the immunity of the spotted hyena. If so, the spotted hyena can provide clues to protect the endangered species against extinction due to diseases. Also, how the wild immunology could be studied further for future immunization or vaccine that might result to the same immunity that the spotted hyena posses.