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UC Davis Study Finds Zebras Have Stripes To Ward Off Blood-Sucking Flies

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DAVIS (CBS13) — A study out of UC Davis has found a zebra’s stripes are meant to ward off blood-sucking flies.

Researchers mapped out species and subspecies of zebras, and cross-referenced it with a number of theories.

“We thought we would test it by using a geographic approach,” said UC Davis Professor Tim Caro.

The theory that kept popping to the top was that 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.

“Wherever you’re really annoyed for long periods of the year by these biting flies, then you evolve stripes,” Caro said.

If that’s the case, why wouldn’t other hooved animals that live near zebras also evolve with stripes.

It turns out antelope have longer, coarser hair, making it harder for the flies to get to.

“It’s very easy to have your skin punctured by these biting flies if you’re a zebra,” Caro said.

Caro hopes the research gets more kids interested in preserving wildlife.

“If we could tell children as to why these animals are colored in different ways, we might attract more kids to thinking about nature,” he said.

Kids at the Sacramento Zoo sure found the news about the blood-sucking flies interesting.

“Kind of makes you think, like, are there any here?” said Hayden Farstad. “I don’t know. I might want to go now.”

The next big question is why did zebras need to worry about the biting flies in Africa? Was it because of disease or the dangers a swarm of biters could pose?

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