- Why does a zebra have stripes? It is a question that has intrigued generations of scientists, including Charles Darwin, and they have proposed a number of possible answers over the years.
- Research into the subject continues, with the latest study published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society B’. While this study looks extensively into one possible reason why a zebra has stripes — that these helps confuse blood-sucking parasites.
So, what are these ideas?
- The stripes provide the zebra with camouflage from predators by creating a kind of optical illusion.
- The stripes on a zebra blends with the lines of the tall grass around it.
- This might not work for a human observer, but zebra’s main predator, lion is colour-blind.
- A lion would not be able to differentiate between zebra stripes and lines of grass.
- Temperature regulation:
- By this theory, the stripes help a zebra keep cool in the heat.
- The temperature of the black stripes is considerably warmer than that of the white stripes.
- These temperature differences cause air flows between the black and white stripes, which could help cool the zebras by speeding up evaporation of sweat.
- Mutual recognition:
- Every individual zebra has a unique pattern of stripes, just like every human has a unique set of fingerprints.
- This hypothesis goes that the unique stripes help individual zebras recognise one another.
- Confusing bloodsuckers:
- According to the latest theory, the black and white stripes create an optical illusion (barber-pole effect) for flies and other parasites that would have sucked on the zebra’s blood.
- Because of the stripes, flies miscalculate the moment when and speed at which they should land on the zebra.
Source: Indian Express