Zebra Stripes May Be More For Cooling Than Camouflage
How did zebras get their stripes? It’s hard to get a black-and-white answer.
Some scientists say the stripes are a form of camouflage that protects zebras from hungry lions. Others say they’re key to zebra mating rituals. Just last year, researchers published research suggesting that the stripes repel biting flies, thus protecting the animals from diseases flies sometimes carry.
But a peculiar new study offers yet another possible explanation: the stripes help the zebras stay cool in their sometimes sweltering habitats.
“We discovered that temperature is an important predictor of how stripy plains zebra are,” Dr. Brenda Larison, an assistant researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. “Zebra in areas with seasonal cold temperatures are less stripy than those in areas with sustained warm temperatures.”
For the study, the researchers analyzed variations in the stripes seen in plains zebras at 16 sites in Africa. The researchers then examined the relationship between the stripe patterns and 29 environmental variables, including climate to predation to biting flies.