Why zebras have stripes

Image: Wikimedia Commons
The most recent issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology provides insight into why zebras have evolved stripes. Using a horse model, researchers have shown that horseflies find zebra stripes less attractive than homogeneous colors. It turns out that horseflies are attracted to linearly polarized light whereas the pattern of wide black and white stripes on zebras reflect different polarizations making them less attractive to the biting insects.

Too bad mosquitoes are not attracted to light patterns. I would wear zebra-striped pajamas all summer long if they were.

Egri A, et al., Polarotactic tabanids find striped patterns with brightness and/or polarization modulation least attractive: an advantage of zebra stripes. Journal of Experimental Biology. J Exp Biol 215: 736-745, 2012.


  1. #1 Bob Gotschall
    February 11, 2012

    But think, if you shot an elephant wearing your zebra striped pajamas, would the stripes have been due to ward flies off of it?

  2. #2 wirawan
    February 11, 2012

    I never know about stripes on zebras before until I read this article. It was interesting story. I live in Thailand all year we have a lot of mosquitoes, I should wear cloth with stripes.