An annoying pest may be the answer to why zebras have stripes

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DAVIS, Calif. — It’s a question people have been asking for centuries. Why do zebras have stripes?

University of California-Davis Wildlife Biologist Tim Caro and a team of researchers believe they have found the answer.

They discovered the animals evolved the stripes over time to ward off blood-sucking flies.

Caro says for some reason those flies don’t like to land on black and white stripes.

Zebras are actually the only animals who live in those areas that develop stripes because their hair is not as long or as coarse as other hoofed-animals.

“It’s very easy to have your skin punctured by these biting flies if you’re a zebra,” said Caro. “Wherever you’re really annoyed for long periods of the year by these biting flies, then you evolve stripes.”

A zebra’s stripes also help make it difficult for lions and other predators to pick out one zebra to chase.

Professor Caro hopes research like this will get kids more interested in preserving wildlife.

“If we could tell children as to why these animals are colored in different ways, we might attract more kids to thinking about nature,” he said.


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