(Photo: J. Todd Poling)
What evolutionary advantage do stripes offer zebras? For a long time, scientists thought that the stripes served as a form of camouflage. Then scientists reasoned that the stripes help protect zebras from blood-sucking flies. Now researchers have published a different hypothesis in Royal Society Open Science. They think that the stripes help the zebras keep cool. Skunk Bear, NPR's science Tumblr blog, explains:
Zebras in hotter regions have more defined stripes. Here’s a bit of logic that might explain the phenomenon: dark stripes heat up faster, white stripes heat up slower —> that creates areas of different temperature —> that creates little convection currents (remember how wind happens?) —> that helps the animals cool.