Pretty much everyone has seen the Disney movie, The Lion King,Hyenas where the animals that lived in the graveyard were always laughing about something. Hyenas are known for their constant giggling but could it actually have a significance? Research has shown that there is actually a system behind these constant giggles.
Frédéric Theunissen, from the University of California at Berkeley, USA, and Nicolas Mathevon, from the Université Jean Monnet, St. Etienne, France lead a research team at a Berkley field station where they observed the behavior of Hyenas. Science Daily quotes one of the researchers Theunissen,"The hyena's laugh gives receivers cues to assess the social rank of the emitting individual. This may allow hyenas to establish feeding rights and organize their food-gathering activities." Here he describes that the laughter may actually have social meaning.
One thing they found is that the pitch of the laughter describes the age of that hyena. Aside from the actual pitches of the laughter, the spacing between each noise can tell what the social status is of that particular hyena. These qualities can be important when interacting with other hyenas especially when it involves food. When a group of hyenas are competing for a particular food source revealing that they are older and of higher priority could help then win the fight for the food.This laughter can be started by an individual out of purely expressing their emotions. Theunissen and his team believe that groups of hyenas interact using these signals and can choose whether or not to join the group.
I'l admit I'm not one to jump on the opportunity of studying animals but, I find the animal behavior of these animals very interesting. It is amazing how just a "laughter" to us can mean so much in the animal world.I'm now wondering how many other species have communication systems like this?