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Hey Zebras, Why the Stripes? January 23, 2016

Posted by geoff in News.

Speaking of nature, the latest thinking on zebra stripes is that they have nothing to do with camouflage against predators:

In open treeless habitats where zebras spend most time, zebras are as clearly identified by the lion visual system as are similar-sized ungulates, suggesting that stripes cannot confer crypsis by disrupting the zebra’s outline….In conclusion, compared to the uniform pelage of other sympatric herbivores it appears highly unlikely that stripes are a form of anti-predator camouflage.

They also doubt that it has anything to do with mating or social status in the herd. So why the stripes? Maybe it’s a defense against biting flies, which apparently prefer not to land on surfaces with stripes less than 5 cm wide (the largest average zebra strip width (found on the rump) is just under 4 cm).


1. Lance McCormick - January 23, 2016

So you’re saying…

The science *isn’t* settled???


2. Lance McCormick - January 23, 2016

…That was supposed to have ‘puts on sunglasses’ in there, but I guess WordPress decided it was bad HTML (which I guess it was, since I used the greater-than/less-than brackets I always think of as “alligators”) and removed it.


3. lauraw - January 23, 2016

Really interesting article, Geoff. Does this mean a zebra-striped wrap of some kind will keep deer flies from biting me while hiking?

4. geoff - January 23, 2016

Could be – they only checked 3 species of African biting flies.

But beware of those East Coast hunters with zebra permits.

5. Tushar - January 24, 2016

The closest East coasters come near Zebras is when they are crossing the road on a pedestrian crossing.

6. daveintexas - January 25, 2016


7. Retired Geezer - January 25, 2016

Hey Zebra, why the long face?

(it had to be said)

8. Bunk Strutts - January 26, 2016

When a herd of zeebers runs en-masse, a predator sees a bigass striped caterpillar jamming in overdrive, stops the pursuit and sits down to lick itself.

9. digitalbrownshirt - January 27, 2016

The stripes make them look slimmer. The lions say “Let’s wait for a fat one” and sit down to wait. By the time they realized what’s really going on they end up getting the stragglers at the end of the herd.

Kind of like last call in a singles bar.

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