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Zebra Stripes … Not So Tacky After All

Zebra Stripes … Not So Tacky After All

While science has suggested that zebra stripes are Mother Nature’s way of thwarting biting flies through evolution, the precise mechanism has been poorly understood.

Researchers examined the behavior of horse flies in the vicinity of zebras and domestic horses. Observations showed that fewer horse flies landed on the zebras than on horses per unit time, although rates of horse flies circling around or briefly touching zebra and horse pelage did not differ. 

As a consequence of zebra striping, few horse flies stayed long enough to bite.

The researchers then experimented by  sequentially placing cloth coats of different colors, and found those wearing a striped pattern suffered far lower rates of horse flies touching and landing on coats than the same horses wearing black or white, yet there were no differences in attack rates to their naked heads.

Further video analysis showed that up close, striped surfaces prevented flies from making a controlled landing but did not influence horse fly behavior at a distance. To counteract flies, zebras swished their tails and ran away from fly nuisance whereas horses showed higher rates of skin twitching. As a consequence of zebra striping, few horse flies stayed long enough to bite.

Read more about the study at the link below.

Zebra Stripe Study


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