Why do Zebras have Stripes?

image“Mum”, “Yes, Kam”.
“Male tigers have stripes, but females don’t, why?”
“Yes they do. Muchli has stripes, Bambooram has stripes. They are female and male tigers.”,
“Yes, they do mum.” Pause,
“Yes, Kam”
“Why do zebras have stripes?”

Another good question.

Zebra Stripes

Zebras in Africa: WIKI
Zebras in Africa: WIKI

Zebra are beautiful. A few months ago Kam and I saw them at the safari park.

There have been a lot of studies to try to find out why zebras have such striking markings.  We outline three of them below:

One study by researchers from Queensland University and London University in 2013 simulated the movements of a zebra herd.

They found that the stripes throw out optical illusions to confuse a predator’s motion detection system.  Thus, a predator gets confused or disoriented by a herd’s movement.

Intensity of zebra marking on different zebra species.
Intensity of zebra marking on different zebra species.

Another study by UCLA in 2013 tried to show why different zebra species had different intensities of stripes.

They concluded the amount and intensity of striping could be predicted by the temperature of the zebra’s habitat.

Zebras in warmer climes have large bold stripes and cover the body. On zebras found in colder climates there are fewer stripes which are lighter and narrower. Sometimes, the legs or other body parts have very little striping.

Zebra stripes
Zebra showing us it’s stripes

The stripes regulate body temperature, (thermoregulation), and as we shall see from the next study as protection from diseases carried by biting flies.

A study carried out by Lund University in 2013 tried to find out if zebra stripes stop horseflies biting the zebra. They did find narrow black stripes made the zebra less appealing to the flies.  Ie, the whiter the zebra, the more reflected light there is so the zebra bitten far less by horsefly bites.

A Note to You and Me.

It seems that zebra stripes do help them a lot.  They keep their bodies at correct temperatures, they help to confuse predators whilst they are in a herd and give protection against horse flies.

Pretty good, I’d say.

If you know of any other reasons zebras have stripes, please let us know and add a comment.  Thanks for reading.  Please, have a look at some of the other articles Kam has asked questions about. X


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