A team of researchers from Hungary and Sweden think they have finally cracked the case on an age-old mystery of the natural world: Why do zebras have stripes?
According to a study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, the signature stripes evolved to keep blood-sucking horseflies away.
Scientists began the study by looking at dark-coated horses and white horses. They found that horseflies were more attracted to the dark-coloured beasts due to the way light bounces off dark coats in a horizontal wave of light that appeals to the insects.
Since zebras start with overall dark skin and develop the white stripes before they are born, scientists believe this could be an adaptation to ward off the germ-carrying insects.
Still, many hypotheses about the origins of zebras’ stripes remain.
One popular theory is that the characteristic bands act as camouflage. When the animals are packed together in a large group, the mass of wavy lines confuses predators.
Other theories suggest that stripes developed as a form of temperature regulation or as a way for zebras to recognise each other by the unique pattern.
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