Why do zebras have stripes?

Researchers believe a zebra’s stripes help camouflage the animal and protect it from predators. The wavy black-and-white stripes of a zebra blend in with the wavy lines of tall grass in its savanna surroundings. Although the zebra’s stripes are black and white and the lines of the grass are yellow, brown, or green, the zebra is still able to roam undetected. Why? Because the zebra’s main predator, the lion, is colorblind. In fact, if a zebra is standing still among tall grass, a lion may overlook it completely. Zebra stripes work even more efficiently in a herd. When individual zebras band together, the pattern of each zebra’s stripes blends in with the stripes of the zebras around it. This is confusing to the lion, who sees a large, moving, striped mass instead of many individual zebras. The lion’s inability to distinguish zebras makes it difficult for the lion to target and track its meal. But while zebra stripes act as a defense mechanism for predators, individual striping helps zebras recognize one another. Stripe patterns are like zebra finger prints: Every zebra has a slightly different look, helping each member of the herd distinguish one another. This helps human researchers and animal preservationists, too, because unique stripe patterns help them track individual zebras in the wild.


When zebras are together in herds, their striped fur is very confusing to predatory lions.


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