Why zebras have stripes
March 13, 2019 3:14 PM   Subscribe

A new, very clever study seems to have finally solved the mystery of Zebra stripes.
posted by BadgerDoctor (19 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
posted by BadgerDoctor

posted by Fizz at 3:22 PM on March 13 [15 favorites]

See my new striped sweaters for horses business.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 3:24 PM on March 13 [7 favorites]

So zebras are just horses with dazzle camouflage? Neat.
posted by ejs at 3:27 PM on March 13 [7 favorites]

Living beings seek to represent themselves on the basis of their own experience of the world around them. It is intelligent self-design.
posted by No Robots at 3:29 PM on March 13

See my new striped sweaters for horses business.

You jest, but Google "zebra stripes for horses" and click on shop.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:54 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]

That's so cool. One spends so much time thinking about traits in terms of predation or mating, and even in response to bacteria and disease, but never basic-ass macro-level parasites. One imagines them something adapts to the prey, not the other way around.

*Tho I suppose some disease also played a big role in popularizing this adaptation.
posted by es_de_bah at 4:03 PM on March 13

OK, but what about tigers?
posted by kirkaracha at 4:13 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

We're always trying to explain why zebras have stripes. Maybe we should be asking why horses don't.
posted by clawsoon at 5:00 PM on March 13 [9 favorites]

You jest, but Google "zebra stripes for horses" and click on shop.
Or, y'know, read the paper. The zebra-striped coat was a commercial product called "Buzz-Off."
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:04 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]

It seems that it's the actual act of landing that gets flummoxed, rather than the flies being unaware of the zebra - so it's not classic camouflage, even if it is akin to dazzle paint. I wildly surmise that there's some sort of optical processing in the fly eye-brain system that relies on boundary detection of the visible edge of the target's body, and the white/black boundaries on the skin mean the fly either goes into landing mode too early and falls away or bashes into the animal prematurely.

In other words, the zebra is jamming the fly's guidance system. Which is very neat, and given how horrible horsefly bites are, a very good excuse to wear op-art clothing when in their presence.
posted by Devonian at 5:39 PM on March 13 [14 favorites]

Nah, I think it is clear that it's anti-shark camouflage, just like some divers and surfers are starting to use.

(My empirical evidence is that the number of zebras known to have been killed by sharks has been a constant zero.)
posted by senor biggles at 7:10 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]

CTRL-F "Rule of Cool"
0 hits

[shocked cat emoji]
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 7:21 PM on March 13

We're supposed to wear op-art clothing when we're out looking at zebras?
posted by hippybear at 7:53 PM on March 13

Yeah but are they black with white stripes, or white with black stripes. Focus on the real issue science!
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:43 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]

Remember seeing this on the BBC news
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:01 AM on March 14

My dad had a white horse and delighted in telling visitors that it was an albino zebra.

This is not relevant to the study, but... you know.
posted by Phreesh at 8:23 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]

Can we have clothes that does the same? Would love to get rid of flies without rubbing goop all over myself
posted by rebent at 12:49 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]

Took y'all long enough.
posted by zebra at 12:50 PM on March 14 [5 favorites]

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