Why Zebras Have Stripes: Flies

New theory says horseflies hate them
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2012 2:12 PM CST
Why Zebras Have Stripes: Flies
Zebras stand in the shade at the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

A new theory offers a simple explanation on why zebras have stripes: Horseflies hate them. Researchers discovered that the flies will go after an all-black animal or an all-white animal more than a striped one, reports LiveScience. What's more, the zebra's narrow, vertical stripes seem tailor-made to ward off the pests. (The researchers have some important-sounding rationale involving "horizontally polarized light" to back up their theory.)

"We believe that escaping biting flies, which are annoying to their hosts and transmit lethal diseases, would be a very important selection factor, which may have a much stronger effect than the benefits of striped coat patterns suggested previously," says one of the researchers. (Read more zebras stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.