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A study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology answers the question as to why zebras have stripes. The answer by these Hungarian and Swedish researchers may surprise you but, at least, it is a step in the right direction to answer the pressing question: Why do zebras have stripes?

The paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology is called 'Polarotactic tabanids find striped patterns with brightness and/or polarization modulation least attractive: an advantage of zebra stripes.'

It was authored by:

'¢    Ãdám Egri, Miklós Blahó, and Gábor Horváth (all three from the Environmental Optics Laboratory, Department of Biological Physics, Physical Institute, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary);
'¢    György Kriska (from the Group for Methodology in Biology Teaching, Biological Institute, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary);
'¢    Róbert Farkas and Mónika Gyurkovszky (both from the Department of Parasitology and Zoology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Szent István University, Budapest, Hungary);
'¢    Susanne Ã…kesson (from the Department of Biology, Centre for Animal Movement Research, Lund University, Ecology Building, Lund, Sweden).


They state from within their paper: 'The characteristic striped appearance of zebras has provoked much speculation about its function and why the pattern has evolved, but experimental evidence is scarce.'

And, they conclude (Here comes the answer!): ''¦ we demonstrate that a zebra-striped horse model attracts far fewer horseflies (tabanids) than either homogeneous black, brown, grey or white equivalents.'

So, the stripes help to confuse horseflies, that is, they would rather bite other animals than striped zebras.

Is that the end of the story? Check out page two to find out.


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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University