The Uniqueness of Zebra Stripes

Author: Michael Theys

August 4, 2009

Author Has 206 Post(s)

 

Zebras are remarkable animals, a sweet look-alike mix between a horse and a donkey. Their black and white pajamas are highly recognizable, and make them rather unique in the African savannah!

How’s my new haircut looking fellows?

Quick Zebra Facts

Swahili Name: Punda Milia.

Scientific Name: Equus burchelli (Plains or Burchell’s Zebra), Equus grevyi (Grevy’s Zebra) and Equus zebra (Mountain Zebra).

Shoulder Height: 1, 3 m.

Mass: 227-325 kg.

Lifespan: 40 years + (in captivity).

Habitat: From woodlands to open plains.

Diet: Grazes, but will browse in some instances. Occasionally digs for rhizomes or roots.

Faeces: Elongated shape, similar to warthog droppings.

Gestation: 12-13 months. Long journey to become a zebra, huh?! :)

Stripes

Quite “striping”, isn’t it?! :)

Did you know that each and every zebra individual has a distinctive striping pattern on its skin? Absolutely amazing! Very confusing though…they all look the same to me lol! For scientists nevertheless, zebras can be differentiated from one another by comparing patterns, stripe widths, color and scars!

The reason behind zebra stripes is still somewhat contested.One hypothesis is that the patterning helps to bear up solar radiation.

Another is that it confuses predators during night time, when the big cats are most active. The concept is called disruptive coloration, and while during the day it makes the animals stand out, at dawn it distorts true distances and can be very effective indeed! Thank You Mother Nature! ;)

Best Friends

Standing out of the crowd!

If you’ve heard or seen images of the Great Wildebeest Migration of the Serengeti, then you may know that wildebeest tend to migrate together with zebras. Why is that? Best pals? In love? :) ;)

The first reason is that they are known as complementary grazers. In other words, they eat different parts of the grass and thus find it beneficial to intermingle.

Secondly, the zebra possesses good hearing and eyesight and will alarm the wildebeest when potential danger is lurking by.

Lastly, wildebeest are also one of the largest carnivores’ favorite meals (especially the lion). By mixing with gnus zebras will have a better chance (50/50) of survival, especially if we take a look at the outnumbering ratio of wildebeests!

 
 
 

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4 Responses to “The Uniqueness of Zebra Stripes”

  1. I had no idea about zebra/wildebeest cavorting together, thanks, Michael! Makes perfect sense.
    They definitely have keen eyesight and hearing. They were often the first to notice us approaching and kept a greater distance between us than other animals.

    • Africafreak says:

      Hey Melissa, thanks so much for your feedback! Long time… :)

      Yes, they most definitely have keen eyesight, hearing, vicious kick and…bite! Click on the link, it’s quite remarkable!

      Love your theory Melvin, it surely must be confusing for predators! A little bit like the “Where’s Waldo” books, except it’s more like “Where’s My Meal” in this case! ;)

      Cheers!

  2. Melvin says:

    Great article with some good informations!
    I could add my own theory for having the stripes…
    When we were in Tanzania, I made a pic from about 5-6 zebras standing next to each other & the sides turned to us. It’s quite hard to see where one zebra starts & where it ends & the next starts again.
    Perhaps that confuses a lion too when it attacks a group and suddenly there are more than it thought. The “one” (or 2 or 3) whole zebra, suddenly aparts to many more. All jumping in different directions. Which one to focus on?

  3. Melvin says:

    Wow! That link is really interesting!
    I haven’t seen that yet! I’ll remember it for my next safari! :)

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