Feb 16, 2012

Know why zebras have stripes? Scientists do!

The reason why zebras have evolved to have those black and white stripes that characterize them was a matter of dispute among scientists for decades. Now, a team of researchers from Hungary and Sweden announced deciphering the mystery.

Streaks are meant to keep away hematophagous flies, scientists say. The study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology shows that the pattern created by black and white stripes like zebras are becoming unattractive to the “insect-vampire”.

The secret lies in how it reflects light striped pattern.

“Initially, we studied horses with brown hair, black or white. We found that among horses that are black or brown hair is horizontally polarized light, which makes them very attractive to breeze horses,” explains Susanne Akesson from Lund University, member of research team that conducted the study.

“Horses with white hair reflected polarized light,” added Dr. Akesson, which is not appealing breeze. Therefore, white horses have problems with tăunii, unlike those with black or brown hair.

Having discovered that tăunii prefer dark hair, researchers have studied zebras, wanting to know what kind of light they reflect and the effect of light on hematophagous flies.

Researchers have created several “artificial way” with different patterns, which left them in kind, located near a farm in rural Hungary.

“Artificial horses were covered with glue, which allowed us to see how many insects draw each pattern. We found that the pattern that is common among zebras drew the lowest number of flies, insects fewer than completely white plates, reflecting polarized light, “said Dr. Akesson.

Thus, the study suggests that these stripes zebras have evolved to protect from pests.

Professor Matthew Cobb, a specialist in biology at Manchester University who was not involved in the study, says that research is “rigorous and exciting”, adding that “my suspicion is that this is not the only reason why zebras have stripes.”

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