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Why the zebra has stripes

The Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling did explain how the leopard got its spots and camel its hump, but he never answered how the zebra got its stripes.

  Author: mat | Source: abc.net.au | 10th February 2012  

The newest possible explanation, why the zebra's got its stripes, is that zebra's black and white stripes pattern, helps the animals to fight the pesky and disease carrying flies. The zebras pattern is proposed to reflect the light in a manner that deters the hungry flies from harming the animal.

It's been speculated by the scientists since the 1870s, when Charles Darwin was not quite convinced with the theory of Alfred Russel Wallace, that suggested black and white stripes provide zebras a camouflage in tall grass. Charles Darwin claimed, the zebras prefer and live on open savannahs, where the grass is to short to make stripes useful as a camouflage.

Susanne Ã…kesson, an evolutionary ecologist and her team, who are researching the newest possible theory, had found out previously, that horseflies feel more attracted towards dark animals as oppose to bright or white ones. Most probably because of the way, the light reflects differently of different colors and surfaces.

The researchers went to a horse farm in Hungary to conduct a series of experiments with plastic zebra models that were either black, brown, white or striped. They also used oil filled trays and panels covered with insect tape, also in different colors.

As expected, they found only a few flies landed on white colored objects, but hundreds got stuck on black patterns, what was surprising, they found the same number or sometimes even less flies landed on striped surfaces as did on white ones. When the researches made the white black stripes wider, the pattern attracted more flies.

What can we make of all this, if the purpose of zebra's stripes is really meant to avoid the flies bites and as such protect them from various diseases? Well we could apply the patterns strategically, to defend animals and even human beings against some intrusive and adverse insects.


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