The rare black and white zebra stripes have always remained a big mystery for the researchers and the scientists. While some believed these stripes help zebras to resist diseases, others think they act as a predator repellent or a makeshift air-conditioner.
But unfortunately no final verdict has yet been delivered on why do zebras posses these rare stripes.
In a new study, the researchers have found that zebra gets more stripes with the hotter temperature.
To solve this mystery, the researchers carried study of the plains zebra creating a model that compared the average number of stripes in their regional population with a range of environmental factors. The researchers found the temperature showed the highest correlation to striping patterns following the use of data from their calculations.
Study co-author Brenda Larison, a biologist from the University of California said, “We were able to show that we could predict stripe frequency with significant accuracy.”
We know that the pestilence-spreading pests always avoid striped patterns.
“Diseases carried by horseflies are really nasty. They can hold a lot of diseases like equine influenza and it’s possible that those diseases are going to be more of a problem under warmer, wetter conditions,” said Tim Caro, fellow biologist at University of California.
According to Larson, the skin temperature of zebras is a few degrees lower than the non-striped mammals in the surrounding.
As black colour is more absorbent to heat than white, the temperature difference will trigger a process called convection or the transfer of heat. Researchers further explain as air circulates over the skin of zebra, dipping it on average 3 degrees Celsius below the temperature of other neighboring species.
“Why do the zebras carry this crazy striping scheme? It may be because they’re trying to solve multiple issues with one solution,” said Larison.
Even if the researchers have forged an association between skin patterns and temperature, the potential social functionality of the stripes remains a big mystery.
The findings of the study, which was sponsored by National Geographic, were originally detailed in the journal Royal Society Open Science.