Zebras’ Black And White Stripes Do Not Keep Them Cool, Study Finds

Posted: Jul 10 2018, 11:16pm CDT | by , Updated: Jul 11 2018, 12:01am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Zebras’ Black and White Stripes Do not Keep them Cool, Study Finds
Credit: Tim Caro/UC Davis

Experiment shows that stripes didn't lower the temperature

The iconic black and white stripes of zebras have intrigued scientists for centuries. There have been many theories regarding the reason for this unique pattern, but none of them is considered conclusive.

One of the famous theories is that zebras have striped fur to stay cool in the hot sun. The black stripes get warmer than the white areas and lead to small vortexes when the hotter air above the dark fur meets the cooler air above the white fur. The theory states that these small vortexes act as a fan and keep zebra’s body cool in sunshine. But a new research finds no evidence to support this theoretical explanation.

To test the theory that stripes cool zebras under the sun, researchers modeled zebra bodies with water-filled metal barrels and covered them with skin imitations in different colors and patterns like black, white, brown and grey. Then they placed the barrels in the sun for months and continuously measured the temperature in each barrel. At the end of the experiment, researchers revealed that the black barrel was unsurprisingly the hottest because of its strong absorption of the sunlight while the white one was the coolest due to higher reflectance. There were no significant temperature differences between the striped and grey barrels, which inevitably means that zebra-striped coats do not lower the body temperature.

"The stripes didn't lower the temperature. It turns out stripes don't actually cool zebras.” Susanne Åkesson, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden, said.

Black and white zebra stripes reflect sunlight quite differently, but their overall effect remained a mystery until now. New study, however, has debunked the theory that stripes keep the animal cool in the sunshine.

“The average core temperature of the barrels increased as follows: white cattle, grey cattle, real zebra, artificial zebra, grey horse, black cattle.” Authors wrote in the study. “Consequently, we demonstrate that zebra-striped coats do not keep the body cooler than grey coats challenging the hypothesis of a thermoregulatory role of zebra stripes.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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