The zebra’s stripes help to keep the animal cool

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Three zebras drinking at a water hole

Warm air rises from the black stripes on a zebra’s back while cooler air sinks onto the white stripes. This creates eddies of cooling, chaotic air. That’s the theory proposed by an 85-year-old amateur zoologists, Mrs Cobb, who was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

“Ever since I read ‘How the Leopard Got His Spots’ in Kipling’s Just So Stories at bedtime when I was about four, I have wondered what zebra stripes are for.”

Alison Cobb
Zebra stripes keep the animal cool. That's the theory and it is an excellent one. Photo: Pixabay
Zebra stripes keep the animal cool. That's the theory and it is an excellent one. Photo: Pixabay

Many scientists, over 150 years, have tried to work out why zebras have such stark, high contrast stripes.

Alison Cobb’s research has been published in the Journal of Natural History. She carried out the research with her husband and co-author, Stephen who is 71 years of age. They lived in Kenya, southern Sudan and Mali during the late 1970s and 1980s.

Mrs Cobb also discovered that the black hairs stand on end when it is very hot in contrast to the white hairs which lie flat against the body. The couple have suggested that this helps sweat to rise from the skin to the tips of the black hairs where it evaporates and cools the animal through the physical process of the latent heat of evaporation.

Source: The Times of June 13th 2019. Thank you.

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