A Mess of Zebrasby Fernando Vieira
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ABOUT THE ART
No mammal has stripes like zebras. The pattern of black lines interspersed with white is a striking feature. But what is the function of this unique coat? For the answer we need to look between the lines.
Charles Darwin noticed that each zebra has its own pattern (as our fingerprint) and suggested that the stripes were for individuals to recognize. It could also be a way to identify members of the species. However, zebras born with completely different patterns (predominantly black, for example) were treated like any other member of the group.
There is a theory that the stripes are a form of camouflage. They break the outline of zebra and mix the animal with the tall grass of the savannah. However, zebras are found in groups and it is difficult to go unnoticed by the watchful eyes of a predator.
Another hypothesis is that the stripes of a group of moving zebras can confuse predators causing them to have difficulty in judging distances and preparing a final assault. But once the animal is separated from the group, this advantage disappears.
It was also suggested that the striped pattern would serve to reduce the body temperature. However, a totally white body reflects more light and would be more beneficial than a striped body.
There is a fifth possibility. In Africa, the tsetse fly is the bearer of sleeping sickness, which kills humans, cattle, horses and zebras. However, the number of cases of zebras who contract the disease is much smaller. Do the stripes could act as an insect repellent?
Were all the correct answers?!?!?!