06/11/2010 10:05 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hyena Laugh Decoded (VIDEO)

In this clip from Reuters, researchers from France and California have made progress decoding the infamous laugh of the hyena to better understand its meaning and function. Nicolas Mathevon, Professor of Animal Behavior at Universite Saint Etienne, discusses the importance of the 10 to 20 different sounds hyenas make in establishing their dominant order. He explains, "Each animal has a very precise position in the group hierarchy."

The researchers categorize the hyena noises into three different groups, each serving a different purpose. Mathevon says that the notorious laughing noise hyenas make is actually an expression of not being able to attain something they desire.

WATCH decoding the laughter of hyenas: