Scientists may have just discovered why zebras have stripes by putting them on horses

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FEBRUARY 21, 2019

Scientists believe they may have solved the mystery of why zebras have stripes.

Zebras likely evolved to have stripes in order to avert attacks from biting flies, a study, published Wednesday in the Public Library of Science ONE scientific journal, states.

In an experiment in which horses wore different patterned cloth coats, the horses wearing a striped pattern suffered far lower rates of flies landing on the coats than horses wearing a black or white coat, although there was no differences in the rate of attacks to the horses’ naked heads, according to the study.

Researchers examined the behavior of horse flies near captive zebras and uniformly colored horses and found that, although rates on the amount of time the flies spent circling the two different species did not differ — fewer flies landed on zebras than horses.

“Taken together, these findings indicate that, up close, striped surfaces prevented flies from making a controlled landing but did not influence tabanid [fly] behaviour at a distance,” according to the study.

Also, the acts of zebras swishing their tails and running away from flies resulted in “very few flies” landing on them or probing for blood, according to the study.

However, the “precise mechanism” by which stripes avert attacks is unknown.

Martin How, a research fellow at the University of Bristol who specializes in animal vision, told The Associated Press that researchers were trying to get their minds “into the eye of the fly.”

“They have very different eyes from us,” How said.

How told AP that reasons to be “quite excited” about the new findings include broader implications in terms of technology. For instance, in the case of driverless cars, which are inspired by the vision of insects, if stripes can disrupt a fly they may disrupt a driverless car system as well, he said.


Courtesy/Source: ABC News

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