May, 23 2013



The polemic about the origin of zebra stripes dates back as long ago as 1890 when Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace debated the issue. A number of theories have emerged since then regarding the origin but it has been determined that zebras are white with black stripes and not vice versa. Just as no snowfkale or finger print is alike, no zebra has the same stripes and in fact, their stripes help them recognize other members of their herd.

Zoologists believe stripes offer zebras protection from predators. First, the black and white stripes are a form of camouflage (disruptive coloration) that breaks up the outline of the body. Although the pattern is visible during daytime, at dawn or in the evening when their predators are most active, zebras look indistinct and may confuse predators by distorting true distance. The pattern of the camouflage is much more important than its color when hiding from these predators and the wavy lines of a zebra blend into the tall grass around them. In fact, if a zebra is standing still in matching surroundings, the color blind lion may overlook it completely.

In addition, the stripes protect the zebras when they are in large groups. Since they usually travel in large groups in which they stay very close to one another, their stripes melt together and the lion only sees a large, moving, striped mass instead of many individual zebras.