Cli­mate key to stripes

Ze­bras in warmer re­gions have bold stripes which help them cool

Down to Earth - - SCIENCE -

THERE HAVE been var­i­ous the­o­ries on how the ze­bra got its stripes, rang­ing from those which say that the stripes make it dif­fi­cult for preda­tors to spot it to those which say they help ward off bit­ing flies. A study which an­a­lysed the im­pact of 29 en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, such as heat, flies and preda­tors, on ze­bras across 16 lo­ca­tions in Africa found that tem­per­a­ture was the only vari­able with which ze­bra stripes had a cor­re­la­tion. Stripes help the ze­bra reg­u­late its body tem­per­a­ture as they heat up at dif­fer­ent rates and cre­ate "ed­dies of air" that have a cool­ing ef­fect. This mech­a­nism works best when stripes are bold. As a re­sult ze­bras in ar­eas with lower tem­per­a­ture have fewer and fainter stripes. Royal So­ci­ety Open Science , Jan­uary 14


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