82. Why the Stripes?

Stripes are clearly one of the zebra’s most innovative adaptations. Every pattern is unique.
Climate may have something to do with the patterns. Zoologist have found that zebras living in the cooler climates of southern Africa have stripes that are broader and farther apart than zebras living near the equator.

But why do they have stripes in the first place?
Zebra stripes are one of evolution’s great mysteries.

Over the years, scientists have suggested zebras developed stripes for camouflage in order to confuse their predators. They’ve also suggested that the stripes help lower body temperature, while some believe the striped coat evolved to repel insects.


The Bug Repellent Theory

There is some evidence to support the insect repellent theory. Using sticky plastic models with surfaces painted differently, researchers showed that zebra stripes painted onto the body can protect against biting insects. Relative to the striped mannequin, the dark brown mannequin attracted 10 times more horseflies, while the beige one lured in twice the number as the striped figure. 

Source: Mannequins with body paint, Gabor Horvath,

Researchers concluded that the stripes likely make the skin less attractive to bloodsucking horseflies. This leads scientists to support the idea that zebras developed stripes to help them avoid death by disease.


The Temperature Control Theory

A study published in June 2019 reported that biologists measured the temperatures of black and white hair stripes on zebras in Kenya. The researchers found a 12- to 15-degree-Celsius difference in temperature between the two different coat colors.

Source: Facts in Motion, Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? YouTube




In theory, the currents of air that flow over the zebra’s body are faster over the black parts and slower over the white. At the junction of these two air flows, the different speeds may create little air swirls that cool the zebra.

Raised black stripe hair on a zebra
ALISON COBB



Moreover, zebras can actually raise the black stripes separately from the white stripes. Perhaps this is their way of regulating their temperatures by adding more turbulence to the airflow over their coats.

80. Blondes and Polka Dots


Blondie

Last year, an extremely rare zebra with partial albinism was spotted in Serengeti National Park. Partial albinism means that the animal has significantly less melanin than typical zebras. As a result, stripes appear pale in color.

A few dozen partial albino zebras live on a private reserve in Mount Kenya National Park, but this sighting confirmed that at least one “golden” zebra also lives in the wild.
Zebras with this condition may be more widely distributed in and around Kenya than was previously believed.

Just One of the Gang

Polka Dots!

Early last fall, a newborn zebra foal with bizarre polka-dot markings was photographed in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve.

The rare black zebra foal was first spotted in early September 2019 by Antony Tira, a Maasai tour guide and wildlife photographer.
At first, Tira thought it was a zebra that had been captured and painted for purposes of migration research.

After carefully studying the foal, he realized he was looking at a newborn zebra with a pigment disorder.

The zebra foal has been given the name “Tira.”

The name “Tira” was coined by the Maasai guide who first found him. There is a general rule within the park; whoever finds an animal of significance gets to name it.
No need to wonder why Mr. Tira chose that particular name.

79. Z is for Zebra

Kenya has two kinds:
Grevy’s and Plains

Zebras are native to Africa. They are social animals and live in herds. Zebras can be found in a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, savannas, woodlands, mountains and coastal hills.

Their black and white stripes make them a safari goer’s favorite. No two stripe patterns are alike.

Zebras can rotate their ears 180 degrees, and can turn them separately so that one ear faces front, while the other listens for sounds back of them.
They have excellent eye sight, a dangerously strong kick and can run up to 35 miles per hour.



Zebras are very closely related to horses and donkeys. Although they’ve been ridden, they are small, with rather weak backs and cannot support very much weight. They’re much wilder and more aggressive than horses or donkeys, which makes domestication difficult.

Zebra’s are herbivores and can survive for a week without water. Peak birth periods for the Grevy’s are usually July through August, so I should be seeing a few babies when we go on a game drive.

Of the three species of zebra (Plains, Mountain and Grevy’s), both the Plains and Grevy’s reside in Kenya.


The Grevy’s Zebra

Grevy’s Zebras are the largest of the three zebra species. They have short manes and thin stripes that do not go all the way around their stomachs.

Grevy’s Zebras have large, round Mickey Mouse-like ears.

In the late 1800s, Kenya was home to between 20,000 and 30,000 Grevy’s Zebras. In the early 1980s, there were 15,000. Loss of habitat has dwindled their population to less than 2,500, making them one of the most endangered of wild animals.

Ninety percent of Grevy’s are found in Kenya.
They are hunted for their striking skins.

Source: mbzFund, Grevy’s Zebra Conservation in Kenya, YouTube (Time: 5:39)

The Plains Zebra

The Plains Zebra is the commonest of Africa’s three species and the one familiar to most safari goers.

Plains Zebra


The Plains Zebra has a striped belly. The stripes on its neck continue onto its mane, which has stiff, erect hairs.

Zebras nibble each other’s mane and neck to reinforce social bonds during mutual grooming.

They live in small family groups consisting of a male (stallion), several females, and their young. These units may combine with others to form awe-inspiring herds thousands of head strong, but family members will remain close within the herd

Source: Young Zebra’s Dangerous River Crossing | Life Story | BBC Earth (Time: 5:40)