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A horse is a horse... Unless of course...
October 5, 2007 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Are Zebras black with white stripes, or white with black stripes? Find the answer to this, plus many other fun zebra facts and many great zebra pictures and photos for your desktop at the appropriately titled Fun Zebra Pictures & Facts website.

And funnily enough, the stripes are actually meant to work as camouflage. For further reading, you can learn more about the varied lives of Africa's Zebras here.
posted by Effigy2000 (40 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Zebras are actually red with blue stripes, but they're colorblind.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:54 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well played, m_c_d.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:03 PM on October 5, 2007


Meant to work as camouflage by whom? The zebras?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:04 PM on October 5, 2007


What's black and white and read all over?

A newspaper!

s/read/red/;

A zebra in a blender!
posted by mrnutty at 5:05 PM on October 5, 2007


[snark]

Ok, seriously, is it necessary to divide up the content into 1 fact per page? I swear, I know how to use the scroll bar.

[/snark]
posted by Parannoyed at 5:11 PM on October 5, 2007


I remember on a David Attenborough show where he said the stripes were actually for cooling.
posted by Eekacat at 5:13 PM on October 5, 2007


A horse is a horse... Unless of course...

...it's a zorse.
posted by dersins at 5:15 PM on October 5, 2007


They probably chose to call it a “zorse” because “hebra” implies something else entirely.
posted by tepidmonkey at 5:16 PM on October 5, 2007


Interesting, I always heard that they were used for camouflage, but only in that when they were in a herd, it became more difficult for a predator to pick a single one out to focus it's attention on.
posted by quin at 5:17 PM on October 5, 2007


Literal Vik-

Oh sod it. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

I'll leave.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:25 PM on October 5, 2007


...I forgot my purse.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:31 PM on October 5, 2007


I have good gnus and I have bad gnus.
posted by hal9k at 5:40 PM on October 5, 2007


Zebra
posted by jonmc at 5:41 PM on October 5, 2007


Random Zebra fact: one of my grad school advisors had found that the strpe pattern on zebras (indeed most stripey animals) could be simulated by as a surprisingly simple interference pattern between black and white point sources of pigment. It's as if there was a few spots of white paint on the back of the zebra and spots of black paint on the hooves and the camoflage pigment formed as waves of black and white pigment washing over the zebra's skin.

Consider the zebra: math in life.
posted by bonehead at 5:45 PM on October 5, 2007


I've always thought that a zebra's stripes served a purpose similar to WWI/WWII dazzle camouflage for ships, i.e. not to hide the Zebra but to make it more difficult for a predator to estimate the Zebra's speed and direction.
posted by RichardP at 5:56 PM on October 5, 2007


Zebadonk
posted by euphorb at 6:07 PM on October 5, 2007


Would a Jewish zorse be a hebra?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:20 PM on October 5, 2007


Quagga.

...or, as we call 'em at our house, "squagga"....
posted by squasha at 6:21 PM on October 5, 2007


Zebra?
posted by Reggie Digest at 6:29 PM on October 5, 2007


Parannoyed: "..is it necessary to divide up the content into 1 fact per page.."

I didn't go to the link in question, after reading that all the facts were spread out over several pages. I'm spoiled.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:38 PM on October 5, 2007


..oh. and they're black w/white stripes.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:39 PM on October 5, 2007


Hal9k: "I have good gnus and I have bad gnus."

The 'G' is slient.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:41 PM on October 5, 2007


Bonehead: I don't mean to be an ass, but I can't seem to find the zebra-like stripes in the image you linked to. What area should I be looking at?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:44 PM on October 5, 2007


For the biologists in the room, more info on the embryological development of zebra stripes is touched on here.
posted by i less than three nsima at 7:16 PM on October 5, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America - Meant to work as camouflage by whom? The zebras?

To their potential predators. Lions and stuff don't quite see the same way we do.

The visual cortex uses a lot of shortcuts; for example only changes between dark and light are processed and the visual cortex 'extrapolates' and translates that. The vertical stripes on the zebra confuses the lion brain, it's so caught up noticing the stripes and less on that the stripes are on a zebra.

Also what mr_crash_davis said; zebra predators' retinas have a different blend of rhodopsins than we do.
posted by porpoise at 7:45 PM on October 5, 2007


IMNABioligist, but that link was still facinating.

And now that I'm wrapping my head around it, essentially that means....if the pigmentation is entirely in the dermis, then if I were to shave a zebra, it would still be striped, yes?

So, what color is a zebra's hair? I'm thinking colorless, like strands of fiber-optic filament. And now that I'm thinking of that I'm thinking how cool would a fiber-optic enhanced zebra be?

I'm also thinking someone slipped something in my coffee.
posted by squasha at 7:53 PM on October 5, 2007


I was referring to i less than...'s link. not the one up top.
posted by squasha at 7:55 PM on October 5, 2007


IASoClearlyNABiologist. I completely misread that document and reversed the statements about pigmentation. I'm sticking to the theory that this coffee is not unadulterated and I'm slinking off, now.

Fiberoptic Zebroid would still make a good band name.

posted by squasha at 8:00 PM on October 5, 2007


Any links to false color images of how zebras against grass would appear to lions?
posted by Flunkie at 8:07 PM on October 5, 2007


Are Zebras black with white stripes, or white with black stripes?

Both?

Also, line-obliterating camouflage is common in nature and especially in Naval History. The idea, as I understand it, is to make it difficult to see exactly where the Zebra "ends" and the background "begins", thus making it harder for the Lion (or whatever) to make a coherent plan of attack.

From the website:

U-boats did not aim their torpedos directly at a ship to sink it. Because the target was moving, it was necessary to aim ahead of its path in order for the torpedo to arrive in the correct spot at the same time as the ship. If the torpedo is too early or too late, it will miss. The primary goal of dazzle painting was to confuse the U-boat commander who was trying to observe the course and speed of his target.
posted by Avenger at 8:19 PM on October 5, 2007


Flunkie: Great question, not a great link, but this isn't aweful.

Looking at a (mostly) static image is something that humans are relatively good at. In movement, a striped zebra is more difficult to 'concentrate' on or register than something in a nice solid colour against a contrasting background to a lion. Most visual cortex neurons ignore things that stay the same; movement (change) elicites the most changes in firing (usually by firing more).

I don't think that it's possible to exactly simulate feline vision to a human - the neural structures are different enough such that it's not possible to do it with perfect accuracy.

Optical illusions are a really cool way to study how human visual cortices process visual information. I guess camoflauge takes advantage of the reasons why optical illusions happen.
posted by porpoise at 8:40 PM on October 5, 2007


Interesting you should post this, because in fact, Mr. Ed WAS a Zebra. And you know it's true, cuz it's snopes!

I highly recommend you to check out the "More Information" link at the bottom...
posted by symbioid at 9:01 PM on October 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


Interesting, I always heard that they were used for camouflage, but only in that when they were in a herd, it became more difficult for a predator to pick a single one out to focus it's attention on.

Hmm, so individual Zebras are harder to spot but a Zebra would still probably be eaten... How does that work with evolution? Perhaps if the stripes convinced a predator to go eat a nice juicy Gazelle instead then it would make more sense.
posted by schwa at 9:46 PM on October 5, 2007


U-boats did not aim their torpedos directly at a ship to sink it. Because the target was moving, it was necessary to aim ahead of its path in order for the torpedo to arrive in the correct spot at the same time as the ship. If the torpedo is too early or too late, it will miss. The primary goal of dazzle painting was to confuse the U-boat commander who was trying to observe the course and speed of his target.

Yeah, basic trig. If you know the type of vessel and you know its height (e.g. height to highest mast) you can work out the distance. By measuring the apparent length of the vessel you can work out its angle relative to yourself. By measuring this over time you can work out speed and course.

I can see some razzle dazzle camouflage screwing this up, especially at night. But wouldn't it make more sense to paint a smaller ship on the side of your ship?
posted by schwa at 9:51 PM on October 5, 2007


The wikipedia page goes into more detail. Looks like razzle dazzle especially interferes with a certain type of optical range finder.

Are Lions with advanced German optics really a problem for the average Zebra?
posted by schwa at 9:55 PM on October 5, 2007


Interesting you should post this, because in fact, Mr. Ed WAS a Zebra. And you know it's true, cuz it's snopes!

I have to admit, that boggled the LIVING CRAP out of me until I got down to the part about football players running into referees because of black and white television, and then I realized something was afoot.
posted by fusinski at 10:15 PM on October 5, 2007


More on how zebra's stripes work as camouflage.

With a cool picture!
posted by louche mustachio at 11:04 PM on October 5, 2007


If a Zebra attacks another Zebra in a fit of passion, is it a hate crime?
posted by stavrogin at 2:44 AM on October 6, 2007


Hmm, so individual Zebras are harder to spot but a Zebra would still probably be eaten... How does that work with evolution?

The species ancestral to zebras might have had individuals both with and without stripes. Guess which ones got eaten.
posted by grouse at 6:23 AM on October 6, 2007


symbioid, I did not initially follow your advice and read the more information link, and my failure to do so caused me to read that Snopes article over and over again looking for where my misunderstanding was coming from. Because what I was reading just wasn't. fucking. making. sense.

Zebras don't appear as such on black and white TV? Football players crashing into refs based on what kind of TV they were being viewed on? I was actually getting angry.

So I must say: Well played, sir. Well played.
posted by quin at 10:34 AM on October 6, 2007


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