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.

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