Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

The mystery of zebra stripes just got solved

The mystery of zebra stripes just got solved

But, what is it about stripes that so disrupts a biting fly's ability to land on a zebra and suck its blood?

"We showed that horse flies approach zebras and uniformly colored horses at similar rates but that they fail to land on zebras - or striped horse coats - because they fail to decelerate properly and so fly past them or literally bump into them and bounce off", said behavioral ecologist Tim Caro of the University of California-Davis, lead author of the research published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers found that horseflies landed on the bedecked horses less frequently than on those without the striped coats.

"In addition to stripes that prevent controlled landings by horse flies, zebras are constantly swishing their tail and may run off if horse flies do land successfully, so they are also using behavioural means to prevent flies probing for blood", Mr Caro said.

The assumption is that the stripes somehow "dazzle flies" when they are close enough to see the stripes with low-resolution eyes. The team dressed the horses and zebras sequentially in black, white, and then black and white striped coats. Just as before, when horses wore coats with striped patterns, they experienced fewer horse fly landings.

Pakistan cricketers' photos removed from HPCA stadium in Dharamshala
The picturesque stadium had hosted a warm-up tie between the touring Pakistan team and the Indian Board President's XI in 2005. In the wake of the terror attack, India have been doing all it can to make Pakistan pay for the dastardly way.


Video footage showed that the flies made uncontrolled approaches when faced with a striped landing strip.

The reason for zebra stripes has been debated for over 150 years. That factoid would be that the stripes on a zebra are to help camouflage the animals inside the herd, so predators have a harder time catching a meal. Zebras swish their tails nearly continuously during the day to keep flies off; they stop feeding if bothered by them; and if the flies are particularly persistent, the zebras will run from them.

It's important to note that zebras also behave differently from horses in the presence of flies.

The bugs were still attracted to the zebras, and still pursued them from a distance, but couldn't nail the landing when they got close. Scientists finally (probably) figured out why zebras have stripes. Stripes may therefore offer zebras vital protection, though the researchers aren't entirely sure why the pattern seems to confuse flies. The striped animals nearly continuously swish their tails during the day and will stop feeding if they feel bothered.

Like this: