Why do zebras have stripes?

Researchers+test+their+theory+to+see+if+stripes+protect+the+horses+from+insect+bites.%0AInfo+and+picture+obtained+from+https%3A%2F%2Fnews.sky.com%2Fstory%2Fwhy-do-zebras-have-stripes-to-keep-the-flies-off-say-scientists-11643472.+%0A
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Why do zebras have stripes?

Researchers test their theory to see if stripes protect the horses from insect bites.
Info and picture obtained from https://news.sky.com/story/why-do-zebras-have-stripes-to-keep-the-flies-off-say-scientists-11643472.

Researchers test their theory to see if stripes protect the horses from insect bites. Info and picture obtained from https://news.sky.com/story/why-do-zebras-have-stripes-to-keep-the-flies-off-say-scientists-11643472.

Researchers test their theory to see if stripes protect the horses from insect bites. Info and picture obtained from https://news.sky.com/story/why-do-zebras-have-stripes-to-keep-the-flies-off-say-scientists-11643472.

Researchers test their theory to see if stripes protect the horses from insect bites. Info and picture obtained from https://news.sky.com/story/why-do-zebras-have-stripes-to-keep-the-flies-off-say-scientists-11643472.

Uroob Saeed, Web Editor

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Over time, animals have undergone multiple genetic mutations that have allowed them to develop certain characteristics in order to increase their chance of survival. The evolution of zebras include their distinct black/brown and white pattern on their skin. However, this feature seems peculiar, as a dry, grassy environment such as the African Savannah does not offer much options in which camouflage would be effective for these creatures. So what exactly is the use of their appearance?

Experts have provided various reasons as to what the main reason for their appearance could be. Examples of such theories include camouflage (as mentioned earlier), identity recognition within a group, to cool the animal by providing convection currents along its back, or to help them avoid large predators. Although these ideas sound valid, a group of researchers conducted an experiment to test their own hypothesis: that the striped pattern of a zebra protects it from being bitten by various insects. Zebras are susceptible to many diseases, including trypanosomiasis, equine influenza, African horse sickness- all spread by flies. Their short-haired coats make it easier for the flies to find blood vessels as well. The researchers put a black and white striped coat on some horses and observed the number of flies that approached them. They compared these results to the number of flies that came to the horses with plain, single-celled coats. The researchers found that both groups attracted flies in similar rates. However, as the flies would circle the horses, they were significantly less successful  landing on the striped horses than they were on the plain horses.

Tim Caro, lead author of the report in which their study was published, stated that the flies “fail to decelerate properly, and so fly past them or literally bump into them [zebras] and bounce off.” University of Bristol biologist and study co-author Martin How, further explained that the stripes may “dazzle” flies once they get close enough to see them with their low-resolution eyes- much like how pilots can become dazzled by the sun. In addition, zebras constantly move their tail, hoping to ward off any flies that do end up landing on their skin. Even thought the mystery has not been solved, most researchers agree that this theory is the most likely explanation.

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Why do zebras have stripes?