Why does a zebra have stripes? 斑马为何有斑纹?

更新时间 2012年 2月 10日, 星期五 - 格林尼治标准时间17:01

Victoria Gill, BBC News

Zebra family

White stripes could have been a result of natural selection

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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.


1. True or false? There have been different explanations about why zebras have stripes.


2. The latest scientific reserach shows that stripes give zebras an advantage over their non-striped ancestors. What is it?

The striped pattern makes the zebras much less attractive to insects.

3. What is the main enemy of zebras mentioned in the report?

The horsefly.

4. How different do modern-day zebras look from their ancestors?

They have black and white stripes whereas their ancestors may have looked pure black.

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