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Temporal range: Pliocene–Late Pleistocene
Chasmaporthetes lunensis 1.JPG
C. lunensis skull
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Hyaenidae
Subfamily: Hyaeninae
Genus: Chasmaporthetes
Hay, 1921

See text

Chasmaporthetes, also known as hunting or running hyena, is an extinct genus of hyenas distributed in Eurasia, North America, and Africa during the Pliocene-Pleistocene epochs, living from 4.9 million to 780,000 years ago, existing for about 4.12 million years.[1] The genus probably arose from Eurasian Miocene hyenas such as Thalassictis or Lycyaena, with C. borissiaki being the oldest known representative.[2] The species C. ossifragus was the only hyena to cross the Bering land bridge into the Americas, and ranged over what is now Arizona and Mexico during Blancan and early Irvingtonian Land Mammal ages, between 5.0 and 1.5 million years ago.[2][3]

Chasmaporthetes was one of the so-called "dog-like" hyenas (of which the aardwolf is the only survivor), a hyaenid group which, in contrast to the now more common "bone-crushing" hyenas, evolved into slender-limbed, cursorial hunters like modern canids.[3]

The genus has entered the popular culture lexicon as a result of cryptozoologic claims, having been proposed as the likely origin of the American Shunka Warakin and the Cuitlamiztli.[4]

Taxonomy and etymology[edit]

Chasmaporthetes was named (chasm and Greek πορθευτής = "destroyer, ravager") by Hay (1921), who noted the name to be a reference to the possibility that the beginning of the Grand Canyon was witnessed by the North American species, C. ossifragus . The genus type species is Chasmaporthetes ossifragus. It was assigned to Hyaenidae by Hay (1921), Geraads (1997), and Flynn (1998).[5][6][7][3]


At least nine species are currently recognised:[8]

  • Chasmaporthetes lunensis Del Campana, 1914
  • C. ossifragus Hay, 1921
  • C. borissiaki Khomenko, 1932
  • C. australis Hendey, 1974
  • C. bonisi Koufos, 1987
  • C. exitelus Kurtén & Werdelin, 1988
  • C. nitidula Geraads, 1997
  • C. melei Rook et al, 2004
  • C. gangsriensis Tseng, Li, & Wang, 2013

Anatomy and paleoecology[edit]

C. lunensis skull

The limb bones of Chasmaporthetes were long and slender like those of cheetahs, and its cheek teeth were slender and sharp-edged like those of a cat. Chasmaporthetes likely inhabited open ground and was a daytime hunter. In Europe, the species C. lunensis competed with the giant cheetah Acinonyx pardinensis, and may have preyed on the small bourbon gazelle (Gazella borbonica) and the chamois antelope (Procamptoceras brivatense).[9] The North American C. ossifragus was similar in build to C. lunensis, but had slightly more robust jaws and teeth. It may have preyed on the giant marmot Paenemarmota,[2] and competed with the far more numerous Borophagus diversidens.[10] A study on the genus' premolar intercuspid notches indicated Chasmaporthetes was likely hypercarnivorous rather than durophagous as its modern cousins (excluding the aardwolf) are.[11]


  1. ^ PaleoBiology Database: Chasmaporthetes, basic info
  2. ^ a b c Kurtén, Björn (1980) Pleistocene mammals of North America, p. 199, Columbia University Press, 1980, ISBN 0-231-03733-3
  3. ^ a b c Macdonald, David (1992) The Velvet Claw: A Natural History of the Carnivores, p. 119-144, New York: Parkwest, ISBN 0-563-20844-9
  4. ^ Erberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-57607-283-5
  5. ^ O. P. Hay. 1921. Descriptions of species of Pleistocene Vertebrata, types or specimens of most of which are preserved in the United States National Museum. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 59:599-642
  6. ^ D. Geraads. 1997. Carnivores du Pliocene terminal de Ahl al Oughlam (Casablanca, Maroc). Géobios 30(1):127-164
  7. ^ J. J. Flynn. 1998. Early Cenozoic Carnivora ("Miacoidea"). In C. M. Janis, K. M. Scott, and L. L. Jacobs (eds.), Evolution of Tertiary Mammals of North America 1:110-123
  8. ^ Tseng, Z.J.; et al. (2013). "A new cursorial hyena from Tibet, and analysis of biostratigraphy, paleozoogeography, and dental morphology of Chasmaporthetes (Carnivora, Mammalia)". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 33 (6): 1457–1471. doi:10.1080/02724634.2013.775142.
  9. ^ Kurtén, Björn (1968) Pleistocene mammals of Europe, p. 68-69, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968
  10. ^ Wang, Xiaoming & Tedford, Richard H. (2008) Dogs: their fossil relatives and evolutionary history Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-13528-9
  11. ^ A. Hartstone-Rose (2011) Reconstructing the diets of extinct South African carnivorans from premolar ‘intercuspid notch’ morphology, Journal of Zoology, Vol. 284 Issue 2

External links[edit]