New Study Does Not Support Camouflage Protection Hypothesis for Zebra Stripes

If you've always thought of a zebra's stripes as offering some type of camouflaging protection against predators, it's time to think again, suggest scientists at the University of Calgary and the University of California (UC) at Davis. Findings from their study were published online on January 22, 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE. The article is titled “Zebra Stripes Through the Eyes of Their Predators, Zebras, and Humans.” “The most longstanding hypothesis for zebra striping is crypsis, or camouflaging, but until now the question has always been framed through human eyes," said the study's lead author Amanda Melin, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology at the University of Calgary, Canada. "We, instead, carried out a series of calculations through which we were able to estimate the distances at which lions and spotted hyenas, as well as zebras, can see zebra stripes under daylight, twilight, or during a moonless night. Dr. Melin conducted the study with Tim Caro, Ph.D., a UC-Davis Professor of Wildlife Biology. In earlier studies, Dr. Caro and other colleagues have provided evidence suggesting that the zebra's stripes provide an evolutionary advantage by discouraging biting flies, which are natural pests of zebras. In the new study, Dr. Melin, Dr. Caro, and colleagues Dr. Donald Kline of the University of Calgary and Dr. Chihiro Hiramatsu of Japan’s Kyushu University, found that stripes cannot be involved in allowing the zebras to blend in with the background of their environment or in breaking up the outline of the zebra, because at the point at which predators can see zebras stripes, they probably already have heard or smelled their zebra prey. "The results from this new study provide no support at all for the idea that the zebra's stripes provide some type of anti-predator camouflaging effect," Dr.
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