Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

November 24, 2014 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

Several theories have emerged for this age old question. For instance, scientists have suggested camouflage, for social interaction, and for body temperature regulation. However, a new study in Nature Communications has narrowed in on a more likely explanation: to deter biting flies, such as horseflies, that tend to avoid black-and-white striped surfaces.


Study authors analyzed information on different species and subspecies of zebras, as well as other striped African hoofed mammals. The data shows greater striping on the animals that live in areas where biting flies are abundant. The researchers also note that zebras have unusually short body hair, leaving them particularly vulnerable to the biting flies. The findings lead them to believe that the purpose of a zebra’s stripes is to deter these pesky flies.


Source: Caro T, Izzo A, Reiner R, Walker H, Stankowich T. The function of zebra stripes. Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms4535.

Zebra Stripes

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