NationalGeographic.com [an error occurred while processing this directive]


 

  Field Notes From
Mammals



<< Back to Feature Page



Mammals On AssignmentArrows

View Field Notes
From Author

Rick Gore




Mammals On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Robert Clark



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Todd James (top), and Alex Di Suvero


 

Mammals

Field Notes From Author
Rick Gore
Best Worst Quirkiest
    Riding with the wildebeest herds on the Serengeti Plain was a thrill. In January, when the Serengeti is teeming with wildebeest on the march toward greener grasses, my guide Bjorn Figenshou would often drive us alongside the herds as they galloped. Massively built and powerful, they pounded the grasslands with incredible grace and rhythm. At this time of year, the Serengeti belonged to them.

    Searching for elusive tarsiers, primitive little nocturnal primates, meant wandering at night through the wet jungle of Sarawak. I stumbled for several sweaty hours along muddy paths, frequently slipping, swatting bugs, and—despite my fondest hopes—seeing nothing.

    Learning about an anatomical oddity of female hyenas—they have penises. Exploring various aspects of mammalian maternal behavior, I interviewed hyena specialist Marian West at a field camp in Tanzania. She informed me that not only were hyena societies ruled by females—the lowest ranked female eats before the highest ranked male—but that females are masculinized by the male hormone androgen in the womb so that their clitorises develop into a type of penis. They mate and give birth through this organ. It becomes erect as a sign of submission to the dominant female—or to keep an undesired male from mating with them.

   


© 2004 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe