Scott: Welcome back. Now, scientists have been studying it for over a century. And as a kid, it is probably one of the first questions you ask when at the zoo. Why do zebras have their stripes? Well, now there might be an answer.
Hayden Farstad: Maybe like a sort of thing to attract other mates.
Scott: That is a good guess, but no.
Girl: Because they were meant to be like that.
Scott: After years of evolving, zebra developed stripes not to attract but to ward off bloodsucking flies. That is according to wildlife biologist Tim Caro and his team of researchers at UC Davis.
Professor Tim Caro: We thought that we would try and test it by using a geographic approach.
Scott: They mapped out species and subspecies of zebras, and cross-referenced it with a number of theories. The idea that kept coming out on top was, for some reason, those flies don’t like to land on black and white stripes. The more biting flies, the more stripes on the animals.
So why wouldn’t other hooved animals that live near zebras also evolve with stripes? Turns out antelope have longer, coarser hair, making it harder for the flies to get to.
Caro: Very easy to have your skin punctured by these biting flies if you’re a zebra.
Scott: The researchers hope the study will get more young people interested in preserving wildlife.
Caro: If we could tell children as to why these animals are colored in different ways, we might attract more kids to thinking about nature.
Scott: And it definitely got these young people thinking.
Kisha Kyalesanza: That’s crazy!
Hayden: It kind of makes you think, ‘is there any here?’ I don’t know. I might want to go now!