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Anyone who knows fashion trends knows that animal print is almost always in style. You can literally get just about anything, down to your underwear to look like the skin of a dead animal. Maybe it's that primal hunting instinct to wear the skin of our prey that attracts us to the prints. For the animal itself, these prints are more useful than for just vanity. The patterns can be camouflage or used to attract mates or serve many other purposes. The zebra's striking striped pattern, however, has been one scientists haven't been able to quite explain, until now.
According to NBC News, there is now an explanation for their stripes. Weirdly enough, the stripes seem to be a bug repellant. Scientist Tim Caro presented the theory and set to prove himself right through experiments. He and his team of researchers conducted an experiment where they painted horse mannequins with patterns, including zebra patterns to see how bugs reacted to their prints.. Since bugs like to land on dark surfaces, the crazy pattern confused them into looking elsewhere to hang around. The striped horse mannequins therefore had a lot fewer bug bites than ones that were one color.
So why doesn't every animal have stripes if they're so beneficial? Researchers determined that striped animals appeared where flies and biting bugs are active for months at a time, rather than where they are active less frequently. It was advantageous for these species to develop a natural defense against infections that can cause malnutrition and even death when the threat of bug bites is nearly constant. Zebras also have very thin hair and skin, so without the extra protection of the stripes, they would be bitten more frequently and suffer more ill effects.
It’s always a little strange when you learn something groundbreaking and new about one of your favorite animals, but if there’s one thing we’ve all learned over the years, it’s science will always find out why something is the way it is, even if it’s centuries after everyone affected died. Who knows what discoveries about the animal kingdom will come to light with more studies.
Caro still has a ways to go before his theory is accepted as fact, but this is definitely a good start. Maybe we can all benefit from this bug repellant technique and dress in head to toe zebra print through the summer months. At the very least, I think I might wear some more stripes as bugs start to come out to play.