Zebra Stripe Mystery Solved, Researchers Say
Stripes help deter biting flies, not lions
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2014 3:15 AM CDT
Zebras stand in their enclosure at a German zoo.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

(Newser) – The centuries-old puzzle of why zebras have stripes has been solved, and they're not there to confuse lions or for decoration, researchers say. A new study backs up the theory that stripes evolved as a way to deter biting flies, Real Clear Science reports. Researchers gathered stripe pattern data on a variety of equids and discovered that the animals were a lot more likely to have stripes if they lived somewhere plagued by biting flies—like the plains of Africa.

"I was amazed by our results," the lead researcher says. "Again and again, there was greater striping on areas of the body in those parts of the world where there was more annoyance from biting flies." Earlier research revealed that biting flies don't like to land on striped surfaces, though scientists aren't sure why this is, the Christian Science Monitor reports. No word on whether people wearing striped clothes will enjoy similar benefits.