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Study reveals why the zebra got its stripes

Why do zebras have stripes?

The function of zebra stripes has been a source of scientific interest for over 150 years generating many hypotheses. A new study by the University of Bristol has taken a step forward to answer the puzzling question of how stripes actually work.

Scientists have found that the primary purpose of zebras’ stripes is for avoiding blood-sucking parasites. Scientists examined the behavior of tabanids (horse flies) in the vicinity of captive plains zebras and uniformly colored domestic horses living on a horse farm in Britain using video analysis techniques.

They found that the stripes don’t deter horse flies from a distance, with both zebras and domestic horses experiencing the same rate of circling from the flies. Be that as it may, video investigations uncovered contrasts in approach speed, with horse flies neglecting to back off on way to deal with zebras, which is fundamental for a successful landing.

Professor Tim Caro, Honorary Research Fellow from the University of Bristol‘s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Horse flies just seem to fly over zebra stripes or bump into them, but this didn’t happen with horses. Consequently, far fewer successful landings were experienced by zebras compared to horses.”

Joren Bruggink [left] and Jai Lake [right] investigating how horse flies behave around horses wearing different coloured coats School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol
Joren Bruggink [left] and Jai Lake [right] investigating how horse flies behave around horses wearing different coloured coats
School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol
Dr Martin How, Royal Society University Research Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences, added: “This reduced ability to land on the zebra’s coat may be due to stripes disrupting the visual system of the horse flies during their final moments of approach.

“Stripes may dazzle flies in some way once they are close enough to see them with their low-resolution eyes.”

In another experiment, scientists observed horse fly behavior around the same horses wearing different colored cloth coats: black, white or zebra striped livery. This rejected any distinctions in conduct or smell among horses and zebras. Similarly as previously, when horses wore coats with striped examples, they encountered fewer horse fly landings contrasted with when they wore single-color coats.

Horse flies are a broad issue for local creatures so mitigating strategies, for example, the improvement of hostile to fly wear intended to look like zebra stripes, may, from this examination, be a fascinating result for creature wellbeing and prosperity.

This research provides new evidence for the theory that zebras evolved dichromatic striped coats to evade biting flies and has considerable implications for the horse industry.

The study is published in the PLOS ONE.

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