The surprising reason why zebras have stripes

29 replies
  • OFF TOPIC
  • |
Here is the truth in black-and-white:

It's a natural phenomenon that has forever puzzled curious zoo visitors and scientists alike: why do zebras have stripes? Well, the riddle is no more. Scientists finally have an answer.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, say it's nature's way of protecting them from the bites of blood-sucking flies.

Evolution gave zebras shorter hair than similar species, like horses, leaving them more vulnerable to the wrath of blood-sucking flies, the researchers explained in a press release. Not only are the flies pesky, they also carry deadly diseases. If they were constantly biting, they would be a major risk to the zebras.

But for reasons that are not yet fully understood, the flies that pester large mammals -- usually horseflies and tseste flies -- avoid landing on black and white striped surfaces. And so, by giving them stripes, evolution gave the upper hand back to the zebras.
The surprising reason why zebras have stripes - CBS News
  • Profile picture of the author thunderbird
    I am constantly amazed by the brilliance in nature.

    (BTW, I don't know if you noticed, but you're looking different than you used to)
    Signature

    Project HERE.

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9076790].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author David Braybrooke
      Originally Posted by thunderbird View Post

      I am constantly amazed by the brilliance in nature.

      (BTW, I don't know if you noticed, but you're looking different than you used to)
      Hey, if zebras can evolve, then why can't humans too huh?
      One race, one destination ...
      Signature
      "The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage." - Mark Russell
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9076796].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author superpayouts
        This post reminds me of a visit to the zoo where we were watching a live show relating to the Linx that lives in cold areas of the world for the most part. I already know the answer, but do you know why the Linx have the tips of their ears and the end of the tail in black?

        The answer is simple: it allows the sun to heat the areas of their body where they are most susceptible to being frozen by the cold. The suns light is absorbed and condensed there since black attracts all light waves of the visible spectrum. I was amazed at how simple the answer was and never actually thought about it. I always keep telling myself, there must be some kind of higher power in play since there's always a reason for everything in nature.
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9076826].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
        Originally Posted by David Braybrooke View Post

        And so, by giving them stripes, evolution gave the upper hand back to the zebras.
        That's a horse of another color.


        Originally Posted by thunderbird View Post

        (BTW, I don't know if you noticed, but you're looking different than you used to)
        That's a horse of... oh, never mind.

        Will the real David Braybrooke please stand up.

        (You might be too young to know where that line comes from.)


        Originally Posted by David Braybrooke View Post

        Hey, if zebras can evolve, then why can't humans too huh?
        Fastest case of evolution I've ever seen!


        Originally Posted by David Braybrooke View Post

        One race, one destination ...
        I'm with you there . . . as long as dogs can be honorary humans.
        Signature

        Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9076906].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author David Braybrooke
          Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

          Will the real David Braybrooke please stand up.

          (You might be too young to know where that line comes from.)
          Would that be from To Tell the Truth, an American television panel game show created by Bob Stewart and produced by Goodson-Todman Productions that has aired in various forms since 1956, by any chance?

          It also appeared in 'Slim Shady' by Eminem. ... please stand up, please stand up ... yada yada
          Signature
          "The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage." - Mark Russell
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9077003].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author HeySal
          Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post


          Fastest case of evolution I've ever seen!




          I'm with you there . . . as long as dogs can be honorary humans.
          Seriously - that's not his picture. The suit is way too tasteful. Doesn't fit the posts at all.

          Dogs have been humans for centuries now. No "honorary" necessary.
          Signature

          Sal
          When the Roads and Paths end, learn to guide yourself through the wilderness
          Beyond the Path

          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9077035].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Richard Van
        Originally Posted by David Braybrooke View Post

        Hey, if zebras can evolve, then why can't humans too huh?
        So are you a white Australian or a a black American in Vegas.

        Dam easy this evolution malarkey.

        Or are you confused?
        Signature

        Wibble, bark, my old man's a mushroom etc...

        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9077166].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author thunderbird
    Rejected Screenplay Idea #713 "A New Kind of Superhero,"
    Lounge Singer Man
    A White Australian butterfly researcher with inherited wealth attends an advanced International conference on rare and extinct butterflies. During research to recombine DNA from an extinct species, something goes terribly wrong. The researcher inadvertently subjects himself to DNA recombination with butterfly DNA and DNA from a recently-deceased lounge singer who had once performed on the adapted premises.

    The pale-skinned researcher finds himself becoming increasingly withdrawn and with a sudden ravenous appetite for greenery. A gardener catches him eating leaves from a plant and the normally mild-mannered scientist nearly attacks him for cutting him off from his meal. The researcher, recently divorced, surprises himself by renting an expensive penthouse suite lavishly decorated with 1970s disco-era memorabilia. He arranges for huge quantities of salad greens to be dropped through his door slot every day, paid on his credit card.

    Every day he gorges out on greenery, adds more sheets to his bed and listens to a music he'd never before shown interest in, such as Frank Sinatra and Soul. As the days go by, gorging on salad greens, dressing himself in shinier and shinier attire, listening to a huge range of Las Vegas music, he becomes sleepy, oh so sleepy. He manages to squeeze himself under the hundreds of pounds of sheets on his bed and goes to sleep...for several months.

    With the smell of rotting salad permeating the hallways and getting no response from the suite's inhabitant, building management, though they have a policy of "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" decide the investigate what is going on and call the police. The police break open the premise just as the researcher awakes, decked out in glitzy capes, a shiny hat adorning his very dark complexion, platform shoes, suavely singing into a microphone: It is Lounge Singing BUTTERFLY MAN! "Hey babe, when I ask you to bring me sugar, honey, nectar...I'm not asking you to kiss me--that's what I eat!"

    (The reader is silent, stunned by the weirdness of the post, wondering how to get those minutes back that were devoted to reading such odd drivel.)
    Signature

    Project HERE.

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9077267].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    Originally Posted by David Braybrooke View Post

    Here is the truth in black-and-white:



    The surprising reason why zebras have stripes - CBS News
    That's interesting. I always assumed it was to make them harder to see when they are in herds or when running. (Like tiger stripes).
    Signature
    One Call Closing book https://www.amazon.com/One-Call-Clos...=1527788418&sr

    "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity" Friedrich Nietzsche
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9077954].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
      Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

      That's interesting. I always assumed it was to make them harder to see when they are in herds or when running. (Like tiger stripes).
      That's been the long time assumption based on evidence we have from camouflaging ships on the high seas.

      Military camouflage: That old razzle dazzle | The Economist

      Truth is both likely played a role in why Zebras have stripes.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9077991].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
        Originally Posted by Aaron Doud View Post

        That's been the long time assumption based on evidence we have from camouflaging ships on the high seas.

        Military camouflage: That old razzle dazzle | The Economist

        Truth is both likely played a role in why Zebras have stripes.

        No! I have to be right! And everyone else must be wrong!
        Signature
        One Call Closing book https://www.amazon.com/One-Call-Clos...=1527788418&sr

        "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity" Friedrich Nietzsche
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9078141].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
          Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

          That's interesting. I always assumed it was to make them harder to see when they are in herds or when running. (Like tiger stripes).
          Originally Posted by Aaron Doud View Post

          That's been the long time assumption based on evidence we have from camouflaging ships on the high seas.
          In fact, there was an article last week in the New Scientist that seemed to support that long-time assumption. The high contrast striping helps to confuse predators (who locate prey by looking for their outlines) as well as making it difficult to guage the animal's speed and direction.

          But I like this new theory. It clears up the mystery of why you so seldom find tsetse flies around grand pianos - a question that's been bugging musical entomologists for generations.

          .
          Signature
          TOP TIP: To browse the forum like a Pro, select "View Classic" from the drop-down menu under your user name.

          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9078255].message }}
          • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
            Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

            In fact, there was an article last week in the New Scientist that seemed to support that long-time assumption. The high contrast striping helps to confuse predators (who locate prey by looking for their outlines) as well as making it difficult to guage the animal's speed and direction.

            But I like this new theory. It clears up the mystery of why you so seldom find tsetse flies around grand pianos - a question that's been bugging musical entomologists for generations.

            .
            Penguins. You forgot penguins. And waiters. I have to admit though "Grand Pianos" was more inventive. And funnier.

            By the way, I don't know of a reason that several survival advantages can't come out of one adaptation.
            Signature
            One Call Closing book https://www.amazon.com/One-Call-Clos...=1527788418&sr

            "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity" Friedrich Nietzsche
            {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9078316].message }}
            • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
              Originally Posted by David Braybrooke View Post

              Would that be from To Tell the Truth, an American television panel game show created by Bob Stewart and produced by Goodson-Todman Productions that has aired in various forms since 1956, by any chance?
              That would be the one. Wise guy.
              Signature

              Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

              {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9078361].message }}
            • Profile picture of the author lanfear63
              Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

              Penguins. You forgot penguins. And waiters. I have to admit though "Grand Pianos" was more inventive. And funnier.

              By the way, I don't know of a reason that several survival advantages can't come out of one adaptation.
              I found out why elephants paint their feet yellow the other day. So they can hide upside down in bowls of custard.
              Signature

              The only thing to fear is Lanfear itself.

              {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9078405].message }}
          • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
            Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

            But I like this new theory. It clears up the mystery of why you so seldom find tsetse flies around grand pianos - a question that's been bugging musical entomologists for generations.

            .
            This also clears up the mystery of Steinway's advertising slogan

            "Steinway...Keeping Tsetse Flies Off Pianists Since 1848".
            Signature
            One Call Closing book https://www.amazon.com/One-Call-Clos...=1527788418&sr

            "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity" Friedrich Nietzsche
            {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9078471].message }}
            • Profile picture of the author Kay King



              Is it a zorse...or a zonkey?
              Signature

              Saving one dog will not change the world - but the world will change forever for that one dog.
              It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.
              {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9078926].message }}
              • Profile picture of the author seasoned
                Originally Posted by Kay King View Post




                Is it a zorse...or a zonkey?
                It's a ZULE! Poor zule.

                Steve
                {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079080].message }}
                • Profile picture of the author Kurt
                  Originally Posted by seasoned View Post

                  It's a ZULE! Poor zule.

                  Steve
                  Since mules are a cross-species bred animal and therefore are sterile, it can't be a "zule", since a mule can't breed with another animal.
                  Signature
                  Discover the fastest and easiest ways to create your own valuable products.
                  Tons of FREE Public Domain content you can use to make your own content, PLR, digital and POD products.
                  {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079093].message }}
                  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
                    Originally Posted by Kurt View Post

                    Since mules are a cross-species bred animal and therefore are sterile, it can't be a "zule", since a mule can't breed with another animal.
                    Yeah, I WAS kidding! They were talking about horse, donkey, etc...

                    Steve
                    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079110].message }}
                    • Profile picture of the author Kurt
                      Originally Posted by seasoned View Post

                      Yeah, I WAS kidding! They were talking about horse, donkey, etc...

                      Steve
                      Generally speaking, when joking it's best to use a smiley emoticon, not a sad one.
                      Signature
                      Discover the fastest and easiest ways to create your own valuable products.
                      Tons of FREE Public Domain content you can use to make your own content, PLR, digital and POD products.
                      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079125].message }}
                      • Profile picture of the author Kurt
                        Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

                        Well, I'm kinda in an RCA dog head tilt over the idea of the stripes warding off bugs. Other animals adapted tough skin or thicker fur, so the stripes have to have more than a single purpose. It doesn't make sense that they wouldn't just grow a thicker fur if bugs are the case. I also wonder if they've checked the endorphins and such to see maybe if these guys don't actually secrete a smell the bugs hate. I've been racking my brain to figure out how stripes would deter a bug. I can't think of anything in nature that would resemble the pattern enough to repel them. There has to be a reason it repels them or they wouldn't have adapted that behavior either.

                        Oh man. I'm thinking again. I'm no fun anymore.
                        Originally Posted by seasoned View Post

                        I have to side with heysal here, The insect somehow is scared off by such a large PATTERN? That doesn't make sense. Various biting insects have been shown to be attracted to HEAT, CO2, SMELL, or just brushed by the hair, and find their way to one of the other things.
                        The stripes may not have to "scare" or make the flies avoid them. It's possible the stripes mess with the flies' vision in some way and may act as a "cloaking device".

                        Or it could be something else completely.
                        Signature
                        Discover the fastest and easiest ways to create your own valuable products.
                        Tons of FREE Public Domain content you can use to make your own content, PLR, digital and POD products.
                        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079131].message }}
                        • Profile picture of the author lanfear63
                          Nope your all wrong, its ingrained into the psyche of blood-sucking flies to avoid them.

                          They were all hanging out at Zebra Crossings you see. They are all Beatles fans ( Another insect) so they all paid a visit to the famous one at Abbey Road where the Beatles crossed. So they decided to do the same and pose for photos. Unfortunately cars cant see them and don't stop and ran loads of them over, including the photographer.

                          This incident became common knowledge so every time they see a Zebra in front of them they say, look, a Zebra Crossing. Not going there. See, easy. Pianos of course, when someone shut the lid on the Lord of the flies, word got out.
                          Signature

                          The only thing to fear is Lanfear itself.

                          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079197].message }}
                        • Profile picture of the author HeySal
                          Originally Posted by Kurt View Post

                          The stripes may not have to "scare" or make the flies avoid them. It's possible the stripes mess with the flies' vision in some way and may act as a "cloaking device".

                          Or it could be something else completely.
                          ???????????????

                          What we see:



                          What they see:



                          Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

                          I was wondering how stripes repelled the bugs too. I couldn't come up with much, except possibly there used to be a natural predator to the insects that had stripes and it's got something to do with predator avoidance rather than a repellant factor. I'm not completely convinced it's the stripes. They should paint a few horses and see if the tsetse flies avoid them.


                          Oh contraire, my dear, it's fun watching the smoke come out of your ears.
                          Actually, that's not a bad idea, Dennis. Sure would be a quick test method.
                          Signature

                          Sal
                          When the Roads and Paths end, learn to guide yourself through the wilderness
                          Beyond the Path

                          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079213].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    Well, I'm kinda in an RCA dog head tilt over the idea of the stripes warding off bugs. Other animals adapted tough skin or thicker fur, so the stripes have to have more than a single purpose. It doesn't make sense that they wouldn't just grow a thicker fur if bugs are the case. I also wonder if they've checked the endorphins and such to see maybe if these guys don't actually secrete a smell the bugs hate. I've been racking my brain to figure out how stripes would deter a bug. I can't think of anything in nature that would resemble the pattern enough to repel them. There has to be a reason it repels them or they wouldn't have adapted that behavior either.

    Oh man. I'm thinking again. I'm no fun anymore.
    Signature

    Sal
    When the Roads and Paths end, learn to guide yourself through the wilderness
    Beyond the Path

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9078977].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

      Well, I'm kinda in an RCA dog head tilt over the idea of the stripes warding off bugs.
      I was wondering how stripes repelled the bugs too. I couldn't come up with much, except possibly there used to be a natural predator to the insects that had stripes and it's got something to do with predator avoidance rather than a repellant factor. I'm not completely convinced it's the stripes. They should paint a few horses and see if the tsetse flies avoid them.


      Oh man. I'm thinking again. I'm no fun anymore.
      Oh contraire, my dear, it's fun watching the smoke come out of your ears.
      Signature

      Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079045].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author NewParadigm
    I spent 2 weeks in the African bush on safari at 3 different camps. It will blow your mind like nothing else.
    Signature

    In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079017].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    I have to side with heysal here, The insect somehow is scared off by such a large PATTERN? That doesn't make sense. Various biting insects have been shown to be attracted to HEAT, CO2, SMELL, or just brushed by the hair, and find their way to one of the other things.

    Mosquitos, for example are attracted to CO2. Companies have created CO2 traps that attract and kill mosquitos for more than an ACRE!

    ZEBRAS could have another component in their CO2 that could throw mosquitos off the scent, or attract them where they can't attack. Their metabolism could be slightly different. They may EVEN have a biological makeup that is incompatible with the disease. SOME think, for example, that the sickle cell anemia that is generally ONLY in blacks evolved to protect against maleria. Another change exists in some from europe that protects against the plague and HIV.

    As for the LYNX? WHY only THOSE two spots?

    Steve
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9079108].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author ConfusedJ
    Has this explanation actually been tested, or is it yet another creatively-concocted bald assertion, which (unfortunately) seem to widespread in evolutionary biology?

    Originally Posted by thunderbird View Post

    I am constantly amazed by the brilliance in nature.
    Yes, the level of mind-numbingly sophisticated design found throughout the biological world is quite remarkable, and quite uncomfortable for certain people. *wink, wink*

    If you really want to have your mind blown, read this: Your Brain Has More Connections Than Every Computer on Earth Combined
    Signature

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[9080154].message }}

Trending Topics