Zebras Have Stripes to Avoid Flies, Not Lions

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

It’s dangerous being a zebra. These ungulates, which graze on the plains (as well as mountains and grasslands) of Africa, face many existential threats. For instance, the very act of eating grass can be lethal, as anthrax spores reside in the soil. Ingesting these spores can lead to a deadly gastrointestinal infection. Zebras must also avoid human hunters. And they need lots of water, so they must never wander very far away from waterholes. However, the waterhole is deceptively tranquil; simply taking a quick drink can result in being eaten by a lion.

Fortunately for the zebras, they have evolved white and black stripes as camouflage to confuse lions. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. But, as is so often the case, the conventional wisdom appears to be wrong. Continue reading