Fossil dog may be ancestor of Africa’s “painted” canids
An African wild dog (Lycaon pictus, left) compared to a spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta, right). Both photographed at the Bronx Zoo.
It never fails. Whenever I visit a zoo’s African wild dog exhibit someone inevitably asks “Are those hyenas?”, and when I visit spotted hyena enclosures I often hear the question “Are those dogs?” These carnivores, known to scientists as Lycaon pictus and Crocuta crocuta (respectively), are only distant cousins, but the vague similarities shared between them often cause people to confuse one with the other.
There are a few quick and dirty ways to tell them apart. Spotted hyenas, as their name indicates, have a coat flecked with solid spots while the fur of each African wild