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article imageA zebra's stripes shoo away flies

By Tim Sandle     Apr 5, 2014 in Environment
A new study concludes that zebras evolved stripes in order to prevent pesky biting flies from landing on them. It seems that there is greater striping on areas of the body in those parts of the world where there is more annoyance from biting flies.
Over the years there have been many theories as to why a zebra has stripes. Theories include that they serve as protective camouflage, a way to confuse predators, to manage body heat, or some kind of social function. Now comes a new theory: that the zebra evolved stripes in order to minimize the likelihood that flies will land on its body.
The theory has been put forward by Tim Caro from the University of California, Davis. Caro and his research team mapped striped zebras and a few close 'horse' relatives, geographically, and compared the animals’ ranges with factors related to each theory: large predators, average temperature, proximity to woodland areas, and the ranges of horseflies and tsetse files. The only theory the team could not rule out was that of the flies.
The new theory has been published in the journal Nature Communications. The paper is titled "The function of zebra stripes".
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