But would he have come up with the explanation that Gábor Horváth, Susanne Åkesson and colleagues from Hungary and Sweden have: that zebra's stripes stave off blood-sucking insects? The team publishes their discovery that zebra stripes is the least attractive hide pattern for voracious horsefiles in the Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.org/.
Horseflies (tabanids) deliver nasty bites, carry disease and distract grazing animals from feeding. According to Horváth and colleagues, these insects are attracted to horizontally polarized light because reflections from water are horizontally polarized and aquatic insects use this phenomenon to identify stretches of water where they can mate and lay eggs.
However, blood-sucking female tabanids are also guided to victims by linearly polarized light reflected from their hides. Explaining that horseflies are more attracted to dark horses than to white horses, the team also points out that developing zebra embryos start out with a dark skin, but go on to develop white stripes before birth. The team wondered whether the zebra's stripy hide might have evolved to disrupt their attractive dark skins and make them less appealing to voracious bloodsuckers, such as tabanids.
Travelling to a horsefly-infested horse farm near Budapest, the team tested how attractive these blood-sucking insects found black and white stripes by varying the width, density and angle of the stripes and the direction of polarization of the light that they reflected. Trapping attracted insects with oil and glue, the team found that the striped patterns attracted fewer flies as the stripes became narrower, with the narrowest stripes attracting the fewest tabanids.
The team then tested the attractiveness of white, dark and striped horse models. Suspecting that the striped horse would attract an intermediate number of flies between the white and dark models, the team was surprised to find that the striped model was the least attractive of all.
Finally, when the team measured the stripe widths and polarization patterns of light reflected from real zebra hides, they found that the zebra's pattern correlated well with the patterns that were least attractive to horseflies.
'We conclude that zebras have evolved a coat pattern in which the stripes are narrow enough to ensure minimum attractiveness to tabanid flies', says the team and they add, 'The selection pressure for striped coat patterns as a response to blood-sucking dipteran parasites is probably high in this region [Africa]'.
IF REPORTING ON THIS STORY, PLEASE MENTION THE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY AS THE SOURCE AND, IF REPORTING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A LINK TO: http://jeb.biologists.org
REFERENCE: Egri, Á., Blahó, M., Kriska, G., Farkas, R., Gyurkovszky, M., Åkesson, S. and Horváth, G. (2012). Polarotactic tabanids find striped patterns with brightness and/or polarization modulation least attractive: an advantage of zebra stripes. J. Exp. Biol. 215, 736-745.
This article is posted on this site to give advance access to other authorised media who may wish to report on this story. Full attribution is required, and if reporting online a link to jeb.biologists.com is also required. The story posted here is COPYRIGHTED. Therefore advance permission is required before any and every reproduction of each article in full. PLEASE CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org
Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences