Washington: A new study has recently revealed that zebras' thick, black stripes may be more used as a cooling system than camouflage.
Some researchers have suggested that the stripes may help zebras camouflage themselves and escape from lions and other predators; avoid nasty bites from disease-carrying flies; or control body heat by generating small-scale breezes over the zebra's body when light and dark stripes heat up at different rates, the Fox News reported.
Now, researchers based at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have produced one of the most comprehensive zebra stripe studies yet by examining how 29 different environmental variables influence the stripe styles of plains zebras at 16 different sites from south to central Africa.
The scientists found that the definition of stripes along a zebra's back most closely correlated with temperature and precipitation in a zebra's environment, and did not correlate with the prevalence of lions or tsetse flies in the region. These findings suggested that torso stripes might do more to help zebras regulate their body temperature than to avoid predators and tsetse flies.
The team found that the plains zebras with the most-defined torso stripes generally lived in the Northern, equatorial region of their range, whereas those with less-defined torso stripes were more common in the Southern, cooler regions of the range, a finding that supports the thermoregulation explanation.
Still, the researchers have not experimentally tested the theory that black and white stripes might generate small-scale breezes over a zebra's body, and some researchers don't think stripes could actually create this effect.
The study is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.