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Why Do Zebras Have Stripes - Some Interesting Theories
Zebras are Black with White Stripes
Have you ever wondered why zebras have stripes? First of all zebras are black with white stripes. This has been proven by zebra embryos. They are solid black and develop their stripes a little later in their development. Now as to the reason for their stripes, no one really knows for sure, but there are some interesting theories. Many different animals evolve with special features for different reasons but they all are in relation to the continuance of their species.
The primary theory, of course, is camouflage against their predators. But if you stop and think about it, zebras don’t live in a black and white world. They live on grassy plains where the natural colors are browns and tans. Their predators on these plains are camouflaged in same type colors of their surroundings. Look at the cheetah, for instance, they are a brownish orange color with black spots. This way they blend in with grass and the shadows. The lion is the same color as the tall grass it hides in. Then why, you ask yourself, does the zebra have black and white stripes.
Confuse their Predators
The foremost theory is that the stripes work as camouflage, but to "confuse" their predators. The main predator of the zebra is the lion. Lions are noted for being color-blind and cannot tell the zebras are black and white. Since zebras run close together in herds, what the lion sees is a mass of lines moving all around, making it harder for the lion to pick out one individual. Their stripes can also help them blend in with the grass and brush of the plains.
Mother and Baby Zebra
Another theory is for identification. Zebra’s stripes are as individual as fingerprints. No two zebras have the exact same stripes. Some zoologists believe that when a female zebra gives birth, she will try to prevent the foal from seeing other zebras for several days by standing between her foal and the rest of the herd as much as possible. Thus the foal “learns” the pattern of its mother’s stripes quickly and is able to find her just by sight.
Zebra on the Plains
There has recently been a study done by some researches from Hungary and Sweden that believe they have another theory. They believe that the striped pattern of black and white helps keep away the biting flies. They have actually done an experiment where they place “sticky” model horses into a fly infested field to test their theory. Each “sticky” horse had a different color or pattern to it. After counting how many flies were attracted to each pattern, they found that they “sticky” horse with the zebra stripe pattern attracted less flies. This theory has to do with the way light is reflected off the black and white pattern.
Zebra in Grass
Of course the savannah is a very got place and keeping cool is very important. Another theory has to do with the way light is reflects from the pattern of stripes. The black and white stripes reflect the sun in different ways, the white reflects the sun and causes an upward movement of air. The black absorbs the sun, which causes a downward movement of air. This is said to create a circular air movement around the zebra, which is thought to help keep the zebra cool.
These are just a few, among many different explanations as to why zebras have stripes. No one really knows for certain. Mother nature works in mysterious ways and I’m sure she had a very good reason for zebras and their stripes.
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