Siddhesh Sonawdekar

Are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes

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Are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes?

Animal Camouflage Image Gallery]
 Per­haps Michael Jackson was thinking of zebras when he wrote the song "Black or White.

Before the solid-coated and dappled thoroughbreds that usually come to mind when we hear the word "horse," there was the zebra. One of the oldest members of the horse family, the African zebra seems far more exotic than common horses and donkeys. However, it closely resembles the earliest equine ancestors .

Zoologists have yet to unravel all of the genetic mysteries that lie behind the zebras signature striped suit. The alternating color pattern works well with its native environment, deflecting up to 70 percent of the heat that hits its body. The arrangement of the stripes adds another intriguing dimension to the animals biology since each zebra has a completely unique design. In particular, the stripes on its shoulders, or withers, contain the most individualized markings.



If you wear a zebra-print outfit in a crowd, it nearly guarantees that someone will easily spot you. In the jungle, however, a zebras stripes actually work as a camouflage to deter its main predators: lions and hyenas. Since the animals herd together, experts believe that the mass of stripes can confuse the predators by acting as an optical illusion that blends their figures together. Consequently, a group of 10 zebras may look like a giant striped blob that a lion wouldnt want to take on solo. For more detailed information about this natural disguise, read "How do a zebras stripes act as camouflage?"

Why Zebras Have Stripes? #Video


By and large, these ungulates or hoofed animals prefer to pal around together rather than alone, migrating as far as 300 miles (482 kilometers) to graze. Even before mating, clusters of bachelor zebras will eat together. Then, stallions will lead a number of female zebras, called a harem. Their unique stripes promote this social behavior since they can tell each other apart.

@What Color Is a Zebra?



Genetics determine the variety of stripes in zebras. While the specific processing of determining this striping pattern isnt known, it has something to do with selective pigmentation. Melanocyte skin cellsproduce the pigments that color the fur. Certain chemical messengers regulate which melanocytes deliver their pigment to the zebra . Mathematical models havent been able to accurately simulate the development of the pattern, but we do know that it takes place during the embryonic phase .

Speaking of stripes, that brings us to the age-old question: What color is a zebra? If you research this answer, youll quickly discover many conflicting perspectives. But Lisa Smith, Curator of Large Mammals at Zoo Atlanta, reports that the coat is "often described as black with white stripes." This makes sense since the pattern is a result ofpigment activation (black) and inhibition (white). That means black is the actual color of the fur, and the white patches are simply the areas that lack pigmentation.. To top it off, most zebras have dark skin beneath their fur.

Although zebras share similar stripe patterns and the same general appearance, a closer examination of their coats reveals distinct differences among the three existing species:

Burchells/plains zebras (Equus burchelli): These are the most populous zebra species, found in northern Kenya. Their broader stripes fade to gray, called shadow striping, as they move down the body. Their legs feature a lot of white as well.

Grevys zebras (Equus greyvi): These zebras have the largest build and are found in northern Kenya as well. They have narrower stripes with definitive black stripes slicing down the middle of their backs and white bellies. Because drought and an increasing human population have severely reduced their numbers, the World Conservation Union lists Grevys zebra as an endangered species.

Mountain zebras (Equus zebra): Found in southern Angola and Namibia, mountain zebras are the least common of the species. A square flap of skin on their throats distinguish these zebras from the other two species. They also sport wide stripes against a cream-colored background.

Reference:
1. Groves.
2. The International Museum of the Horse.
3. Holland.
4. Camazine.
5. The Development of Zebra Striping Pattern.
6. Smith.
7. National Zoo.


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