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An unexpected advantage of whiteness in horses: the most horsefly-proof horse has a depolarizing white coat

Horvath, Gabor; Blaho, Miklos; Kriska, Gyorgy; Hegedues, Ramon; Gerics, Balazs; Farkas, Robert and Åkesson, Susanne LU (2010) In Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences 277(1688). p.1643-1650
Abstract
White horses frequently suffer from malign skin cancer and visual deficiencies owing to their high sensitivity to the ultraviolet solar radiation. Furthermore, in the wild, white horses suffer a larger predation risk than dark individuals because they can more easily be detected. In spite of their greater vulnerability, white horses have been highly appreciated for centuries owing to their natural rarity. Here, we show that blood-sucking tabanid flies, known to transmit disease agents to mammals, are less attracted to white than dark horses. We also demonstrate that tabanids use reflected polarized light from the coat as a signal to find a host. The attraction of tabanids to mainly black and brown fur coats is explained by positive... (More)
White horses frequently suffer from malign skin cancer and visual deficiencies owing to their high sensitivity to the ultraviolet solar radiation. Furthermore, in the wild, white horses suffer a larger predation risk than dark individuals because they can more easily be detected. In spite of their greater vulnerability, white horses have been highly appreciated for centuries owing to their natural rarity. Here, we show that blood-sucking tabanid flies, known to transmit disease agents to mammals, are less attracted to white than dark horses. We also demonstrate that tabanids use reflected polarized light from the coat as a signal to find a host. The attraction of tabanids to mainly black and brown fur coats is explained by positive polarotaxis. As the host's colour determines its attractiveness to tabanids, this parameter has a strong influence on the parasite load of the host. Although we have studied only the tabanid horse interaction, our results can probably be extrapolated to other host animals of polarotactic tabanids, as the reflection-polarization characteristics of the host's body surface are physically the same, and thus not species-dependent. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
polarotaxis, visual ecology, polarization vision, horses, tabanid flies, host choice
in
Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
volume
277
issue
1688
pages
1643 - 1650
publisher
Royal Society
external identifiers
  • wos:000276997700004
  • scopus:77953516804
ISSN
1471-2954
DOI
10.1098/rspb.2009.2202
project
CAnMove
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
2663913e-dd39-4c7a-884f-81a08c236c00 (old id 1601055)
date added to LUP
2010-05-20 10:43:16
date last changed
2018-07-15 03:52:44
@article{2663913e-dd39-4c7a-884f-81a08c236c00,
  abstract     = {White horses frequently suffer from malign skin cancer and visual deficiencies owing to their high sensitivity to the ultraviolet solar radiation. Furthermore, in the wild, white horses suffer a larger predation risk than dark individuals because they can more easily be detected. In spite of their greater vulnerability, white horses have been highly appreciated for centuries owing to their natural rarity. Here, we show that blood-sucking tabanid flies, known to transmit disease agents to mammals, are less attracted to white than dark horses. We also demonstrate that tabanids use reflected polarized light from the coat as a signal to find a host. The attraction of tabanids to mainly black and brown fur coats is explained by positive polarotaxis. As the host's colour determines its attractiveness to tabanids, this parameter has a strong influence on the parasite load of the host. Although we have studied only the tabanid horse interaction, our results can probably be extrapolated to other host animals of polarotactic tabanids, as the reflection-polarization characteristics of the host's body surface are physically the same, and thus not species-dependent.},
  author       = {Horvath, Gabor and Blaho, Miklos and Kriska, Gyorgy and Hegedues, Ramon and Gerics, Balazs and Farkas, Robert and Åkesson, Susanne},
  issn         = {1471-2954},
  keyword      = {polarotaxis,visual ecology,polarization vision,horses,tabanid flies,host choice},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1688},
  pages        = {1643--1650},
  publisher    = {Royal Society},
  series       = {Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences},
  title        = {An unexpected advantage of whiteness in horses: the most horsefly-proof horse has a depolarizing white coat},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2009.2202},
  volume       = {277},
  year         = {2010},
}