Nature & Environment
Zebra stripes camouflage theory challenged
By T.K. Randall
January 14, 2015 · 15 comments
Just what is the purpose of a zebra's stripes ? Image Credit: John Storr
A new study has suggested that a zebra's stripes might actually be used to help it cool down.
The distinct black and white stripes of a zebra are well known, but their exact purpose has been the subject of heated debate among ecologists for years.
Existing theories include the idea that the stripes help to ward off tsetse flies or that they provide camouflage against predators, but now a new study conducted by researchers in Germany and the US has put forward the notion that the stripes are actually a mechanism to help the animals regulate temperature.
The scientists discovered that variations in stripe sizes and patterns seemed to correlate almost perfectly with the average temperature of a particular region.
"Stripe saturation is greatest in the tropics, where animals experience sustained high temperatures," the researchers wrote. "Stripe width could also play a role in thermoregulation."
"Where Grevy’s and plains zebra co-occur, the thin-striped Grevy’s seeks the shade during noon while the thick-striped plains zebra stands out in the full sun."
Source: The Australian
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