CLOSE
Original image
Thinkstock

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

Original image
Thinkstock

Scientists have finally solved one of the great mysteries of the animal kingdom ... probably.

The debate has been raging at least since the 1870s, when our evolutionary theory forefathers Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace disagreed as to how and why the zebra got his stripes.

A group of researchers led by Tim Caro, a biologist at the University of California Davis, set out to test the five prevailing theories: that the stripes repel insects, provide camouflage, confuse predators, reduce body temperature, or help the animals interact socially. They mapped the prevalence and variation of stripes on the seven species of the equid group and their 20 subspecies and compared those maps to the environmental factors of different regions that would influence the different hypotheses. Their findings, published earlier this month in the Nature Communications journal, strongly favored a single theory.

“We found again and again and again [that] the only factor which is highly associated with striping is to ban biting flies,” Caro said. That is to say, the more flies in a certain area, the more likely to find striped species, like zebras.

Two years ago, a study showed that horse flies are attracted to the polarization of reflected light, and a striped pattern disrupts this appealing polarization. This explanation is compelling, but it earned criticism for featuring sticky boards of striped colors instead of actual zebras.

Caro's study has been deemed inconclusive for looking at broad-brush factors like environmental distribution. As Brenda Larison, a biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “the story is likely to be much more complex, and this is unlikely to be the last word on the subject."

But for now, consider zebra-print to keep the flies at bay.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
Australia Zoo Is Taking Name Suggestions for Its Newborn White Koala
Original image
iStock

A koala with striking white fur was recently born at the Australia Zoo in Queensland, and she already has an adoring fan base. Now all she needs is a name. As Mashable reports, the zoo is calling on the public for suggestions on what to call the exceptional joey.

The baby, who is one of several newborn koalas living at the zoo, climbed out of her mother’s pouch for the first time not too long ago. When she made her public debut, she revealed a coat of white fur rarely seen in her species. According to the zoo, the koala isn’t albino. Rather, she got her pale shade from a recessive gene inherited from her mother known as a “silvering gene.” Though the light coloration is currently the koala’s defining feature, there’s a good chance she’ll eventually grow out of it and take on the gray-and-white look that’s typical for her species.

For now, the Australia Zoo is celebrating the birth of its first-ever white koala joey by getting the public involved in the naming process. On the post announcing the zoo’s new arrival, commenters have so far suggested Pearl, Snowy, Luna, and Kao (from the Thai word for “white”) as names to match the baby’s immaculate appearance. There are also a few pop culture-related proposals, including Olaf after the character in Frozen and Daenerys in honor of Game of Thrones.

Instead of deciding the koala’s name by popular vote, the zoo will select the winner from their favorite submissions. And with nearly 5000 comments on the original Facebook post to choose from, the joey will hopefully have better luck than the animals named by the public before her. (The Koalay McKoala Face does have a certain ring to it.)

[h/t Mashable]

Original image
Press TV News Videos, YouTube
arrow
Animals
Why Blue Dogs Have Been Roaming Mumbai
Original image
Press TV News Videos, YouTube

Residents of Mumbai began noticing a peculiar sight on August 11: roving stray dogs tinted a light shade of blue. No one knew what to make of these canines, which were spotted in the streets seemingly unharmed but otherwise bucking nature.

Concerned observers now have an answer, but it’s not a very reassuring one. According to The Guardian, the 11 Smurf-colored animals were the result of pollution run-off in the nearby Kasadi River. Industrial waste, including dyes, has been identified as coming from a nearby manufacturing plant. Although dogs are known to swim in the river, the blue dye was also found in the air. After complaints, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board investigated and found the factory, Ducol Organics Pvt Ltd., was not adhering to regulatory guidelines for waste disposal. They shut off water to the facility and issued a notice of closure last Friday.

“There are a set of norms that every industry needs to follow,” MPCB regional officer Anil Mohekar told The Hindustan Times. “After our sub-regional officers confirmed media reports that dogs were indeed turning blue due to air and water pollution, we conducted a detailed survey at the plant … We will ensure that the plant does not function from Monday and the decision sets an example for other polluting industries, which may not be following pollution abatement measures.”

Animal services workers who retrieved five of the dogs were able to wash off the dye. They reported that no other health issues were detected.

[h/t The Guardian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios