Why are Zebra striped?

Scientists have several decades of debate about the evolutionary causes of the black-and-white stripes on the body of Zebra. At the moment they have three theories about the purpose of the unusual texture of the animals — they may be needed for protection from insects and predators, easy recognition of relatives, and for proper heat transfer in the hot African environment. The last theory seems the most plausible, and most recently, the heat exchange properties of the strips was proved by the two naturalists-Amateurs.

The study was conducted by spouses Stephen and Alison Cobb — they had been in Africa for years, and conducted various environmental studies. While collecting field data about the number of animals of Kenya, they held the first ever study on the heat transfer features stripes of zebras, in their natural habitat. Previous studies, usually conducted in special pens.

Black-and-white strips of zebras are needed for heat transfer

While monitoring two zebras, a stallion and a Mare, the researchers noticed a difference in temperature of the black and white stripes — the same was previously observed also by other scientists. According to biologists, this temperature difference helps to maintain the body temperature of the animal at an optimum level, creating convective air movement. The couple however, Cobb has made a new discovery.

By measuring the temperature of the body of a dead Zebra, they found that in the presence of the same striped cover, it has a higher temperature is a clear sign that involved in thermoregulation and other processes. According to researchers, the thermoregulation works only from living zebras, because they have amazing skill to raise the hairs on the black strips, leaving white streaks even. They believe that it helps them to ward off the excess heat.


Alison Cobb, Nairobi, 1991

Also in thermoregulation plays a big role in way of sweat — all the moisture from the skin is transmitted to the ends of the hair in a foamy droplets that evaporate much faster than the usual drop of moisture.

The mechanism of the regulation of heat in the body of a Zebra is much complicated and interesting than we could imagine. To fully understand how stripes help the zebras to control the temperature, we still have to do a lot of work to gather evidence — shared Alison Cobb.

Why are Zebra black and white stripes? Other theories

With all this, it is not necessary to forget and about other possible purposes of the black-and-white stripes on the body zebras, because they can have several functions. For example, they definitely scare away animals from flies and other insects it has been proven in the course of the experiment, where an ordinary horse dressed in a striped suit.

Also strips can be used as camouflage, protects the animals from predators. This is evidenced by research, the results of which were published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE in 2011 and 2013. To read about all the scientists in our material.