Why do zebras have stripes?

argylesock says… Tsetse flies carry trypanosomes, which cause zoonotic diseases in tropical countries. Zoonotic diseases are those which affect both humans and animals. If stripy zebras get fewer tsetse fly bites because the stipes confuse the flies, trypanosomes cause fewer cases of disease. So you could say that zebras do humans a good turn by having stripes.


Answer by Rory Young:

There are two reasons for Zebras to have evolved stripes.

The first is concealment from and avoidance of predators. Zebras stripes do this in two ways.
Disruptment Camouflage. Normal camouflage works by blending in with or copying the colours and patterns of the surrounds. Obviously the stripes don't copy the surroundings. Disruptment camouflage works by breaking up the outline of something making it harder to distinguish and therefore identify clearly. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cam…

Personally I found Zebras one of the more difficult to learn to distinguish at very long distance when I first began to work in the bush. From very far they can even look like lions with the naked eye. It can also be hard to distinguish one from another when they are in a herd and running.

They other way they work to confound predators is by the use of Motion Dazzle

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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3 Responses to Why do zebras have stripes?

  1. Pingback: HAT tip: researchers map African sleeping sickness | Science on the Land

  2. pcawdron says:

    That’s fascinating…

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