Why zebras have stripes?

Zebra
Image caption White stripes could have been a result of natural selection

Scientists claim to have solved the mystery of why zebras have their characteristic black and white stripes. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology showed that the striped pattern made the animals much less attractive to insects.

Reporter

Victoria Gill

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There have been many theories to explain the zebra's unmistakable stripes. Scientists have suggested that each zebra has a unique pattern that lets other animals recognise it. Or that the mass of black and white in a vast herd provides confusing camouflage that puts off predators.

But this team set out to test exactly what effect the stripes had on a zebra's most irritating and ubiquitous enemy - the blood-sucking horsefly.

As part of their experiment the team put sticky horse models - one white, one black and one zebra-striped - into a fly-infested field. When they collected the flies that had landed and stuck to each of the models, they found that the model zebra attracted by far the fewest flies.

The researchers think that zebras had a black-coated ancestor, which evolved its white stripes in an evolutionary arms race, with an insect that's become the biting, disease-carrying scourge of most horse herds.

Vocabulary

Listen to the words

unmistakable: sesuatu yang sudah pasti

camouflage: kamuflase/baju atau pola yang dirancang agar pemakai tidak terlihat jelas atau tersamar

predators: binatang yang mencari makan dengan berburu

irritating: mengganggu

ubiquitous: dapat ditemukan di mana saja

horsefly: serangga besar yang menggigit kuda dan binatang lain

fly-infested: penuh dengan lalat

ancestor: nenek moyang

evolved: berkembang secara bertahap

scourge: sesuatu yang menyebabkan penderitaan