In the world of biology, much is done to study and understand many different traits species possess all around the Earth. Traits are a very important part of evolutionary biology since they help us understand how traits help species respond to their environment thus allowing them to pass on those traits to subsequent generations. Most biologists focus on phenotypic traits which are observable traits that are expressed by a gene. For example, a phenotypic trait is the long neck of a giraffe, helping it reach up high for fruits. But not all traits are what they seem; a trait might not be helping in a way one would think. This brings us to the topic I present today, the stripes of a zebra.
Zebras are part of the Equide family, or more commonly known as the horse family. Their distinguishable trait is the fact that they have black and white stripes. Any biologist worth their salt would want to find out why, and the most popular theory put out was that it is for camouflage, but a Discovery News article called “Zebra Stripes Not for Camo, But They Do Something Else” brings to light that maybe that isn't the case. Citing a newly published research in Nature Communications, it gives the evidence that biting fly ranges and zebra ranges overlap and that the zebra are sensitive to the flies. The research claims that the stripes are not used for camo, but instead a sort of bug repellent to prevent these flies from biting the zebras. The average zebra hair is shorter than the mouth parts of the flies so it makes them extremely prone to biting. So what makes the stripes effective against this? Well, flies tend use a number of senses to help land on targets such as temperature, odor and movement, but the most important sense is vision. The stripes of the zebras help to throw off the vision of the flies. In the research, the researchers actually found that in areas of high fly density the zebras exhibited more stripes.
With this new found study the Discovery News article mentions that it will also help us understand why other animals have stripes when they don't actually seem to need them for camouflage. In the human aspect, can striped shirts possible help us avoid fly bites? Time and further research will tell.
Posted by Jacob Geier (Week 8-B)