Research

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

"We noticed that tabanids approaching zebras failed to decelerate in a controlled fashion towards the end of their flight trajectories whereas they steadily decelerated before landing or touching horse pelage", the paper reads.

They suggested that horse flies gathered around domestic horses and zebras at a similar rate - but landed on zebras a quarter as often.

The experiment involved three zebras and nine horses with uniformly white, black, grey or brown coats. They use their tails to bat them away and, when flies do land, they don't stay long because zebras move around a lot.

Horse flies are a widespread problem for domestic animals so mitigating techniques, such as the development of anti-fly wear created to resemble zebra stripes, may, from this research, be an interesting outcome for animal health and wellbeing.

The goal of the black-and-white markings has always been a mystery. This rejected any distinctions in conduct or smell among horses and zebras.

Researchers on Wednesday described experiments demonstrating that horse flies have a hard time landing on zebras while easily landing on uniformly colored horses.

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More many years, the zebra's stripes have been a mystery.

Now a group of researchers from the University of Bristol and University of California, Davis believe they have uncovered evidence which suggests zebras have stripes to deter blood-sucking insects and other parasites.

The research is reported in the journal Public Library of Science ONE. Today, many scientists believe that the black-and-white stripes actually function as a fly repellant, but because it's hard to get close to wild zebras, it hasn't been clear how the pattern might deter the pesky critters from landing on the animals and taking a bite.

"Stripes may dazzle flies in some way once they are close enough to see them with their low-resolution eyes", How said. They're like horses, only they have a distinct pattern and colors that are unlike just about any other species. In Africa, where wild zebras roam, flies carry a number of diseases that are fatal to the striped creatures, and their thin coats make them especially easy to bite. While horses are more low-key about the presence of flies, merely twitching and occasionally swishing their tails to ward off the insects, zebras are far less tolerant.

The bugs were still attracted to the zebras, and still pursued them from a distance, but couldn't nail the landing when they got close. The striped animals nearly continuously swish their tails during the day and will stop feeding if they feel bothered.