Mystery of Zebra stripes SOLVED – they confuse blood-sucking parasites and are NOT for camouflage

Mystery of Zebra stripes SOLVED – they confuse blood-sucking parasites and are NOT for camouflage

THE STORY of how the zebra got its stripes has been a mystery for centuries – but scientists may finally have the answer.
The black-and-white beasts evolved their distinctive coat to help them dodge blood-sucking parasites on the plains of Africa.
Getty – Contributor Stripes help zebras avoid horse fly bites
Previously, it was thought stripes helped zebras camouflage and hide from predators, or keep cool in summer.
But a new study led by British scientists proves otherwise.
The stripes actually confuse horse flies, making it harder for them to land to protect the zebras from gruesome bites.
“Stripes may dazzle flies in some way once they are close enough to see them,” said study author Dr Martin How, a scientist at the University of Bristol.
Tim Caro/UC Davis Scientists tested whether giving horses a stripey coat changed how much they were bitten by horse flies
Together with colleagues from the USA and Holland, Dr How carried out a series of bizarre experiments on a horse farm in the UK.
They took closeup observations of both zebras and horses as horse flies tried to land on them.
And while they attempted landings on each animal a roughly equal amount, the flies actually landed on zebras less than one-quarter as often.
When the team put zebra-pattern coats on the horses, fewer flies landed on them.
T. CARO Putting on a stripey coat meant the horses got fewer bites
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The researchers suggest the adaptation helps zebras avoid nasty bites in the wild.
“Once horse flies get close to zebras, they tend to fly past or bump into them,” said Professor Tim Caro, a scientists at the University of California.
“This indicates that stripes may disrupt the flies’ abilities to have a controlled landing.”
The research was published in the open-access journal PLOS One.

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