Past research has suggested a mechanism for the formation of distinct stripes (did you know that stripes are magnetic?), but new research helps to explain the evolution of these beautiful patterns.
Researchers at UC Davis looked at the geographical ranges of zebras and some of their closest geographic relatives, and surprisingly, they found that camouflage, temperature, or environment variations weren’t nearly as significant as the presence of flies. It appears that in parts of the world where biting flies are more of a problem, the amount of body striping is increased.
The evolution of the zebra’s stripes may have just gotten more interesting! We know that horseflies avoid striped surfaces, and understanding how and why certain animal characteristics evolved can be really important. Not only can it help us in conservation efforts, but we can potentially use this information to develop new techniques that can help humans and companion animals! I see some zebra-striped fly sheets in my horse’s future…