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.