It has silver-white stripes with black markings that extend to every part of the body except the stomach and the inner part of thighs. Home In his 2016 monograph, Zebra Stripes, Caro lists numerous evidence that contradicts zebras using stripes to hide from or confuse predators. These erect hairs could trap heat in the cool morning and facilitate sweat evaporation at noon. Despite the extra vigour of recent work, the answer remains inconclusive. The flies would try to land on the stripes, but then fail to decelerate as they normally would approaching a non-striped surface, and bounce off. Terms of Use, Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores, Himalayas Have a Deep Impact on the Climate of the World. “[The 2014 study] really showed something really remarkable to us,” says Caro. Some guessed the patterns distract predators, allowing zebras to escape attacks. But analyses of tsetse flies’ diets found no trace of zebra blood. Unfortunately nobody really knows the answer. So, the question why zebras have stripes have proven very difficult and not without risks – Stephen Cobb has been bitten in the arm and admitted to hospital twice. It has also been suggested the stripes might have a role in communication or controlling the animal's temperature. When all the zebras stick together in a herd, the pattern of stripes blends in with the stripes of the zebras around it. “People have been talking about zebra stripes for over a hundred years, but it's just a matter of really doing experiments and thinking clearly about the issue to understand it better,” he says. It has silver-white stripes with black markings that extend to every part of the body except the stomach and the inner part of thighs. “It looks as if they cannot recognise that black and white surface as a good landing spot,” says Caro. For over 20 years (this website was started in 1998) we have been publishing original multi-cultural, multi-lingual and inclusive content to help kids explore, discover, learn, play, enjoy... All our content is copyright protected. The horseflies hovered around zebras and horses in similar amounts, but far fewer flies landed on zebras – or horses with striped coats. Zoologists believe the stripes on a zebra could be one of several reasons. Flies that bite and suck blood are a common menace to animals in Africa. In December 2013, research carried out by University of Queensland scientists - published in the scientific journal Nature - said the black and white patterns dazzled and confused predators, especially when zebras move as a herd. It could be basically for camouflage very much like the military fatigues. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly features newsletter, called “The Essential List”. They propose that the steady temperature difference between stripes would drive a “mildly turbulent air”. People And in Princeton University, evolutionary biologist Daniel Rubenstein and his collaborators are tackling the question using “fly vision in virtual reality”. A team of evolutionary biologists from the University of California, Davis, and their UK collaborators, investigated why zebras have stripes. Have you ever wondered why a zebra has stripes? For at least 150 years, scientists have pondered why zebras have stripes. found stronger striping patterns in areas that are warmer or receive more intense sunlight. Have you ever wondered why a zebra has stripes? Zebra herds are very large but they stay very close to one another. The researchers now think the stripes dazzle the flies so they can't land properly. Others thought the stripes might keep zebras cool. 5 minutesReadability: Plains zebras travel in large herds and are pale yellow with broad black stripes. Zebras tend to run from threats rather than try to hide (Credit: Alamy). Black stripes or white, the fact remains that zebras are extremely unique and are among the fastest and most graceful of runners in the African bush land. 5Ws & H For Kids The reason for zebra stripes has been debated for over 150 years. About A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife, and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday. Instead, Rubenstein says his team’s ongoing study with a larger number of water bottles shows that stripes help with cooling. If a zebra is standing still in such surroundings, a lion, its chief predator, may overlook it completely. Evaporating sweat removes lots of heat, but evaporation must happen fast or else the sweat gets trapped and insulates the animal like a giant horse sauna. The research at Hill Livery earlier this year, shed new light for Caro’s team. To our eyes the black and white stripes of a zebra is an unsusual pattern in the green brown environment of the African savannah (Credit: Getty Images). They also tend to run from threat rather than hide. Large-scale evidence came in a 2014 study by Caro and his colleagues. I was faced with the difficult task of giving her half-baked answers or finding the right answers this time. “We also found absolutely no support for the other hypotheses.”. Like horses and humans, zebras cool by sweating. Contact Us But, for a long time new theories were introduced without rigorous tests. Horseflies and tsetse flies also transmit diseases like sleeping sickness, African horse sickness, and the potentially fatal equine influenza. Experiments so far haven’t brought further clarity, either. These striping differences, coupled with the challenges that zebras face in their environment, have guided our understanding of how the stripes might work. For Tim Caro, an ecologist from the University of St Andrews who has been studying zebra stripes for almost two decades, the livery yard’s relatively tame zebras provided a rare opportunity to stand within metres of them and observe them. Zebras are quite good at not getting bitten by flies. I now realize why my parents could not give me a concrete answer. The lion has trouble picking out individual zebras and it’s harder still for the lion to recognize which way each zebra is moving! Meet the animals rescued after getting stuck. In February 2019, at a horse livery yard in the UK, a fascinating experiment took place. Scientists have thought that it may be camouflage to hide from predators or even to confuse them, but this has been called into question by some experts. Researchers think that zebras may have evolved this way because where they live. This specie has several variations: some have stripes down to the hooves while the lower legs of the others are solid white without any stripes. The three living species of zebras that roam eastern and southern Africa with their coat of dark hair broken by stripes of white, unpigmented hair, are the only striped equids. They collected weather, lion presence and zebra herd size data, and compared these factors to the stripes of zebras living in the area. Caro and his team found only a weak spatial overlap between striping patterns and maximum temperatures. Plains zebras travel in large herds and are pale yellow with broad black stripes. A year later, a spatial modelling study of plains zebras – the most numerous species that range from eastern to southern African – led by Brenda Larison of University of California, Los Angeles, found stronger striping patterns in areas that are warmer or receive more intense sunlight. Rubenstein, however, is still working on the predation hypothesis, which he describes as “the hardest” hypothesis to test among all. But barrels and bottles can’t capture all parts of a zebra’s cooling mechanism – which perhaps makes these studies too simple to fully explain the purpose of zebra stripes. Scientists have put forward at least 18 reasons why, from camouflage or warning colours, to more creative explanations like unique markers that help to identify individuals like a human fingerprint. So maybe stripes evolved to solve multiple problems. In the name of science, they dressed several domestic horses at Hill Livery in zebra-striped coats, and studied them alongside actual zebras. Caro followed these steps of the scientific process to try to solve the mystery. The most obvious question to ask about zebras is why are zebras striped? Well, scientists at Bristol University certainly have - and now they think they've found the answer. (credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo). Zebra stripes come in different patterns, unique to each individual. I remember asking my parents why zebras were striped or why did giraffes have such a long neck. Researchers did an experiment in which they put zebra-patterned coats on to the horses. They say the black and white stripes may be there to stop flies from landing on the creatures. Citing unpublished data, he says they have examined surface temperatures of animals in mixed herds, and found those of zebras to be a few degrees cooler than the unstriped animals. Zebras share the genus Equus with horses and asses, the three groups being the only living members of the family Equidae. Home Thermoregulation has long been suggested by scientists as the function of zebra stripes. The bold stripe may even serve to break up the shape of the Zebra. Do you know that people of Africa think of zebras as black animals with white stripes whereas people outside Africa consider them as white animals with black stripes! This seemingly straightforward logic has, however, received mixed support. Why are Zebras Striped? All it can see is a large, moving, striped mass instead of many individual zebras. They believe that zebra stripes aid primarily in thermoregulation. 580 words | There are three extant species: the Grévy's zebra (Equus grevyi), plains zebra (E. quagga) and the mountain zebra (E. zebra). This is exactly where it helps the zebra most. The bold wavy lines of a zebra blend in with the tall wavy grassy plains of Africa where these animals live. A 2018 study found water in barrels painted with stripes did not cool more than those in unstriped barrels. Fewer horse flies landed on the horses wearing the stripy coats. “Every zebra must avoid getting hot, and biting flies will come at certain places, and certain times of the year, but they are by no means as definite or frequent a threat as overheating,” says Cobb. The three living species of zebras that roam eastern and southern Africa with their coat of dark hair broken by stripes of white, unpigmented hair, are the only striped equids. In June, the Cobbs reported in the Journal of Natural History that during the warmer hours of a day, black stripes on live zebras were consistently 12-15 Celsius higher than white stripes. Zebras, together with horses and asses, are members of the Equus genus. The difficulty is that biting flies tend to be the most abundant where and when it’s warm and humid. The thin hair of a zebra would pose little barrier to biting flies. They use their tails to bat them away and, when flies do land, they don't stay long because zebras move around a lot. “When it comes to any given attack [on a zebra], we don't know how successful [lions] are or not.” His team is studying how lions attack striped and unstriped objects. Zonkey baby, part zebra, part donkey, born in Mexico, Marcus Rashford: 'For as long as they don't have a voice, they will have mine', Mental health disorders rising in young people, Little Mix The Search: Jade told to self-isolate for first live show. But Rubenstein isn’t convinced – he thinks this experiment had too few samples and too much variation in the data. Zebras spend most of their time in open grasslands where their stripes are conspicuous, and little time in the woods where stripes might camouflage them.

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