"Why Stripes?"
Distraction or Camouflage??
The ancestors of all equines were probably striped. Zebras live in very social societies. They disperse and gather in response to pasture, water and climate. Are the stripes camouflage? Zebras are active, noisy and alert. They never try to hide or "freeze" when disturbed by predators. They rest exposed in groups. Such behavior seems to contradict the 'stripes as camouflage' theory. Are they a distraction to predators? Possibly, but records prove that zebras are killed in approximate proportion to their abundance. Why are there stripes? The answer probably lies within the herd itself. Only the individual zebras within a group receive the constant stimulation of these stripes and seem to actively seek them out. The stripes may serve to identify the species to each other. Many animals are equipped with such visual markers to direct companions to groom particular parts of the body. Black zebras are always found ostracized to the periphery of the herd and even fail to achieve social relationships with the herd. This link with social grooming is probably an important aspect of the zebra's stripes.
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