Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Why do Zebra's Have Stripes?"

A commonly asked question is “Are Zebras white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?” The color of a zebra is black with white coloring. Even though a zebra’s belly and underside is white so it would appear they are white with black stripes, it is just a coincidence. Most animals have lighter colored undersides.

They reason zebra stripes evolved is to confused their predators, who are mainly lions. Lions are color blind so the zebra’s stripe helps them blend into grass. Also, lions can’t focus on one individual zebra to attack when they are all running in a group. The lion has a hard time making out where the head and tail.

Every zebra has a unique stripe pattern. This is how they tell each other apart. The stripes come in handy in breeding season because if a zebra was injured and therefore physically unfit, you can see so in their stripe coloration. Zebra are attracted to stripes. If you are in a zoo, you will notice sometimes the wall in the zebra pen is painted with stripes. The zebras will stand near other zebras or the wall. The zebra stripes main purpose is camouflage.


Posted by: Jen Silva (3)


  1. It is interesting that zebras have developed such a unique coloration from any other animal in its habitat. While other animals like zebras such as water buffalo rely on strength in numbers and proximity, no other animal has developed such radical coloration. Although lion, panther and jaguar are the primary predators of zebra, the coloration and group proximity seems to also work well against Hyena and other forms of wild dog.

    - Jeff Keating (2)

  2. Since tiger stripes are similar to zebra stripes, did tigers evolve in a similar fashion to zebra's despite being a predator and not prey? I've always wondered too, how scientists figure out if an animal is color blind or how it sees. It's not like we can ask, hey tiger, is that red or green?

    I never paid attention to zebra habitat decoration while at the zoo, I'll be on the lookout my next visit!

    -Karen Melendez

  3. Nice article. I really liked the explanation of zebras actually being black with white stripes. I could imagine a lot of people thinking they were white with black stripes since they have more white.

    I actually heard of a theory that says that zebra's stripes also discourage mosquitoes from biting them.

    Posted by Joseph Frimpong

  4. Zebra stripes are a very interesting topic. Most people question why camouflage, which is meant to help you blend into your environment, has manifested in zebras as coloring that is starkly different from the environment. This is only understood if you look through the eyes of the predator - colorblind lions, and only then is it realized that the stark stripes actually do help to blend in with the vertical stripe pattern of tall grass. I also find it interesting that they are actually black with white stripes, and not the other way around. I had not known that. I'd love to hear more about not only what the stripes mean to their predators but what the stripes mean to other zebras. It helps them identify each other, but is it also involved in mating and attraction?

    posted by Laura Moro

  5. Such a fascinating article on zebras. This is a clever adaptation by the zebras, using a shortcoming that the lions have, colourblindness, to trick them.
    A whole lot of facts in this article that I never knew about. I kind of knew that the stripes were meant for camouflage to hide from predators, but I didn't know they were used for mating as well. The fact that surprised me the most was that they are black with white stripes, and not the opposite.

    -Hermann Kam

  6. My first thought after reading this was, "I wonder if giraffes have a pattern for a similar reason." Although giraffes don't have stripes, they have a unique pattern that I can only guess evolved for a reason. I wonder if the sight of a lion (or other predators) gets confused by geometric shapes.

    posted by Taylor Pirog