One cool thing: the mystery behind a zebra’s stripes

Photo: Tim Caro

It turns out that the question of “why do zebras have stripes?” doesn’t just belong in children’s books but may have a scientifically verifiable answer. As the Atlantic reported, Tim Caro a biologist at UC Davis, has spent years thinking about why zebras are striped, and has even written a book about this mystery. In his latest bid to get clear answers, he and his colleagues traveled to Hill Livery, a stable in southwest England that keeps several captive zebras alongside domestic horses. By comparing these two species, as well as horses that were comically cloaked in zebra-striped coats, the team found fresh evidence for what Caro thinks is the only plausible explanation for the striking stripes: They evolved to deter bloodsucking flies.

In 2014, Caro and his colleagues showed that striped horses—three zebra species and the African wild ass with thin stripes on its legs—tend to live in regions with lots of horseflies. And several researchers, over the years, have shown that these flies find it hard to land on striped surfaces.

Up Next

Here’s How the US Government Can Help Prevent the Next Pandemic

Here’s How the US Government Can Help Prevent the Next Pandemic

By Will Gartshore, Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s an old aphorism that still rings painfully true today. Long before Covid-19, the three deadliest pandemics in human history—the bubonic plague, Spanish influenza and HIV/AIDS—claimed more lives than all the […]

Continue Reading 963 words
One Gnawing Problem: Beaver Dams Melting Arctic Permafrost

One Gnawing Problem: Beaver Dams Melting Arctic Permafrost

We know the permafrost in the Arctic is melting fast, but a new study finds that one of the reasons for its rapid decline may be that beavers are actually damming it up — literally.  CNN reports that using satellite images scientists have observed that beavers are building dams way farther north than previously observed.  […]

Continue Reading 108 words
Scientists Take “Anthropause” to Better Study Urban Animals

Scientists Take “Anthropause” to Better Study Urban Animals

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, animals have enjoyed the freedom of a quieter world by venturing further into cities and suburbs. While this “anthropause” has made for thrilling YouTube videos, scientists have taken the opportunity to study the effects of human activity across geographic regions, ecosystems, their effect on species. Researchers have been tracking animal movements […]

Continue Reading 425 words