Why Does A Zebra Have Stripes?

Zebra Stripes

Why a Zebra has stripes is not a riddle, and neither is the answer ‘camouflage’, according to a new study.

Researchers based at University of Calgary and University of California, Davis state that the long-held notion that the Zebra has evolved stripes so it can hide from predators is wrong, and this assumption has stood for a long time because the stripes have been viewed through a human-centric view of the world.

To challenge the camouflage concept, lead researcher Dr. Amanda Melin explained how this idea was dismissed. Speaking with Laboratory News, she said:

“Carried out a series of calculations through which we were able to estimate the distances at which lions and spotted hyenas, as well as zebras, can see zebra stripes under daylight, twilight, or during a moonless night.”

In open, treeless habitats, where most zebras are found, lions have no difficulty in spotting and tracking the animals. In addition, predators are very adept at smelling zebra from long distances.

Through further observational study, the research teams concluded that a zebra’s stripes provide an evolutionary advantage by discouraging biting flies.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One. The research paper is titled “Zebra Stripes through the Eyes of Their Predators, Zebras, and Humans.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.