Why do zebras have stripes? A question that has puzzled scientists for decades, including Darwin himself. But even though there are multiple hypotheses as to why they do have the stripes, none was backed up by scientific evidence.
Up until now.
Because a new research published in the scientific journal Royal Society Open Science, sheds light on this indeed weird skin characteristic. As it turns out, stripes are not there to repel insects, nor for camouflage or for the animals to recognize each other. It all has to do with body temperature. (the article continues after the ad)
The study found that zebras in warmer climates have more stripes. Here’s how this works: when air hits the zebra it creates two opposing airflows; one that’s created on the black parts and one that’s created on the white parts. Because black absorbs more heat than white, the currents on the black parts are stronger and faster. When this airflow meets the slower current of the white parts at the juncture, it causes a mini “swirl” that cools the zebra’s skin. And that is why zebras in warmer climates have more stripes – in order to have more junctures between black and white stripes.
And that apparently, makes a lot of difference: heavily striped zebras have on average 5.4 °F (3 °C) lower skin temperatures than other mammals in the same geographical location.
Scientists tested in total 29 different environmental factors and their findings are so accurate that they can now predict the number of stripes with significant accuracy.
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Sources: Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? New Study Makes Temperature Connection