Monday, December 5, 2011

Zebra Coloration

Zebras have one of the coolest fur colorings/configurations in the animal kingdom. A common theory is that the stripes of a zebra make it blend in with the heard, confusing predators, which is a cool and easy-to-apply concept. However, the real magic comes with the colors themselves.

What scientists discovered is that the sunlight beating down and being absorbed by the black stripes creates a big difference in surface temperature from the white stripes, which reflect most of that light, staying much cooler.

Body temperature has an optimum value. Any extant species will likely have a method in place for maintaining this temperature. Unless a species' climate changes significantly (especially for cold blooded animals) either in a given location or due to a migration, there is no evolutionary pressure to develop a new method.

As a result of these differences in temperature—and thus, pressure—on the fur of the zebras, a mini weather current is formed on the surface of the skin. This keeps a constant airflow over the animal, keeping it cooler in the extreme heat of its environment. Pretty cool huh?

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