“People have been talking about zebra stripes for over a hundred years, but it's just a matter of really doing experiments and thinking clearly about the issue to understand it better,” ecologist Tim Car told BBC Future in 2019. Recent studies have focused on testing a few of the possible theories for zebras stripes, the most popular being protection from biting flies and thermoregulation.
In a 2014 study by Car and others, they found that striping on animals is more common in areas rife with biting flies, potentially meaning that biting flies struggle to see a striped or black -and- white surface as a safe place to land. Retired animal lab technician Alison Cobb told BBC Future that she didn’t think avoiding biting flies was important enough to spark an evolutionary feature like stripes.
Cobb said: “Every zebra must avoid getting hot, and biting flies will come at certain places, and certain times of the year, but they are by no means as definite or frequent a threat as overheating.” The white color is actually the stripe around the main black background of their body.
In the Medieval era, people believed that zebras had white bodies with black stripes. This makes logical sense; white, being a lighter color, would be the base to a darker black.
However, in the case of zebras, instead of being all black, some skin cells are instructed to not produce melanin; those are the white stripes that we see. As mentioned, zebra embryos are completely black, while the white stripes appear at the last embryonic stage.
Melanocyte skin cells produce the pigments that give color to the fur. Black is the actual color of the fur, and the white patches are simply the areas that have little or no pigmentation.
The fact that the skin beneath a zebra’s fur is black further supports this conclusion. Research has shown that the earlier the melanocyte matures, the thicker the zebra’s stripes will be.
In 2016, however, a study published in Nature suggested that the gene Alx3 is involved in stripe formation. They didn’t study the gene in zebras, since they’re hard to keep in a lab, so they opted for a rodent, the African striped mouse.
A zebra’s stripes actually work as camouflage to deter its main predators: lions and hyenas. Since the animals herd together, experts believe that the mass of stripes can confuse predators by acting as an optical illusion, effectively blending their figures together.
Zebras with the most prominent torso stripes generally live in the Northern, equatorial region of their range, whereas those with less prominent torso stripes are more commonly found in the Southern, cooler regions of the range. Both of the above ideas have been popular theories in the past, but they don’t have much evidence to support them.
A study published in 2014 in Nature found that the flies, which you would imagine being a common pest for Zebras, are less likely to sit on black -and- white striped surfaces. In 2019, Japanese researchers painted cows black and white and found that fly bites reduced by 50%.
Gravitational Lending: What It Is And How It Is Helping Us Discover New Galaxies What Exactly is Archimedes Principle: Explained in Simple Words What is Evolution? The stripes on their main body, forequarters, neck, and head are vertical while on their legs and at the rear are horizontal.
As much as the process of determining the pattern is unknown, scientists believe that it is related to selective pigmentation. The embryo of a zebra is black, and the white stripes usually appear in the final embryonic stage.
The furs on a zebra are black and areas with white patches have a small amount of pigmentation. Even though they have similar patterns and numerous general appearances, these animals have some distinct differences on their coats.
The Gravy's zebras have narrow stripes with some black stripes going through the middle of their white bellies and back. The Gravy are listed as threatened due to the severe reduction in their population caused by human intervention and drought.
The stripes help the zebras hide in the grass through a process known as disruptive camouflage. Disruptive camouflage functions by breaking the zebra’s outline while masking its shape thus reducing detectability.
Zebras graze in an open plain for a very long time and have to bear with the intense heat throughout the day. All the fur grows from follicles that contain the pigment-generating melanocyte cells.
Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. Genetics determine the variety of stripes in zebras.
While the specific processing of determining this striping pattern isn't known, it has something to do with selective pigmentation. Melanocyte skin cells produce the pigments that color the fur.
Certain chemical messengers regulate which melanocytes deliver their pigment to the zebra . Mathematical models haven't been able to accurately simulate the development of the pattern, but we do know that it takes place during the embryonic phase .
Speaking of stripes, that brings us to the age-old question: What color is a zebra? If you research this answer, you'll quickly discover many conflicting perspectives.
But Lisa Smith, Curator of Large Mammals at Zoo Atlanta, reports that the coat is “often described as black with white stripes.” This makes sense since the pattern is a result of pigment activation (black) and inhibition (white).
That means black is the actual color of the fur, and the white patches are simply the areas that lack pigmentation . To top it off, most zebras have dark skin beneath their fur .
Although zebras share similar stripe patterns and the same general appearance, a closer examination of their coats reveals distinct differences among the three existing species: Because drought and an increasing human population have severely reduced their numbers, the World Conservation Union lists Gravy's zebra as an endangered species .
A square flap of skin on their throats distinguish these zebras from the other two species. To learn more about the secrets of zebra's stripes and other animals, visit the links below.
(July 14, 2008)http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/AfricanSavanna/fact-gzebra.cfm Groves, Colin P. “Horses, Asses and Zebras.” The alternating color pattern works well with its native environment, deflecting up to 70 percent of the heat that hits its body .
The arrangement of the stripes adds another intriguing dimension to the animal's biology since each zebra has a completely unique design. In the jungle, however, a zebra's stripes actually work as a camouflage to deter its main predators: lions and hyenas.
Since the animals herd together, experts believe that the mass of stripes can confuse the predators by acting as an optical illusion that blends their figures together. By and large, these ungulates -- or hoofed animals -- prefer to pal around together rather than alone, migrating as far as 300 miles (482 kilometers) to graze .
Even if you aren't an equine specialist, you can easily spot a zebra from its telltale black -and- white color scheme. But if you shaved a zebra, you would find a black -skinned animal underneath.
The white stripes emerge afterwards as the genes that code for the dark pigment melanin are selectively deactivated for the hair follicles that cover certain areas of skin.