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Experimental evidence that stripes do not cool zebras

Horváth, Gábor ; Pereszlényi, Ádám ; Száz, Dénes ; Barta, András ; Jánosi, Imre M. ; Gerics, Balázs and Åkesson, Susanne LU (2018) In Scientific Reports 8(1).
Abstract

There are as many as 18 theories for the possible functions of the stripes of zebras, one of which is to cool the animal. We performed field experiments and thermographic measurements to investigate whether thermoregulation might work for zebra-striped bodies. A zebra body was modelled by water-filled metal barrels covered with horse, cattle and zebra hides and with various black, white, grey and striped patterns. The barrels were installed in the open air for four months while their core temperature was measured continuously. Using thermography, the temperature distributions of the barrel surfaces were compared to those of living zebras. The sunlit zebra-striped barrels reproduced well the surface temperature characteristics of sunlit... (More)

There are as many as 18 theories for the possible functions of the stripes of zebras, one of which is to cool the animal. We performed field experiments and thermographic measurements to investigate whether thermoregulation might work for zebra-striped bodies. A zebra body was modelled by water-filled metal barrels covered with horse, cattle and zebra hides and with various black, white, grey and striped patterns. The barrels were installed in the open air for four months while their core temperature was measured continuously. Using thermography, the temperature distributions of the barrel surfaces were compared to those of living zebras. The sunlit zebra-striped barrels reproduced well the surface temperature characteristics of sunlit zebras. We found that there were no significant core temperature differences between the striped and grey barrels, even on many hot days, independent of the air temperature and wind speed. The average core temperature of the barrels increased as follows: White cattle, grey cattle, real zebra, artificial zebra, grey horse, black cattle. Consequently, we demonstrate that zebra-striped coats do not keep the body cooler than grey coats challenging the hypothesis of a thermoregulatory role of zebra stripes.

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author
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organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Scientific Reports
volume
8
issue
1
article number
9351
publisher
Nature Publishing Group
external identifiers
  • pmid:29921931
  • scopus:85048763714
ISSN
2045-2322
DOI
10.1038/s41598-018-27637-1
project
Centre for Animal Movement Research
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
ac5d525a-3c1d-4a21-9d76-166f3a9fd569
date added to LUP
2018-07-04 08:49:08
date last changed
2020-10-27 03:36:10
@article{ac5d525a-3c1d-4a21-9d76-166f3a9fd569,
  abstract     = {<p>There are as many as 18 theories for the possible functions of the stripes of zebras, one of which is to cool the animal. We performed field experiments and thermographic measurements to investigate whether thermoregulation might work for zebra-striped bodies. A zebra body was modelled by water-filled metal barrels covered with horse, cattle and zebra hides and with various black, white, grey and striped patterns. The barrels were installed in the open air for four months while their core temperature was measured continuously. Using thermography, the temperature distributions of the barrel surfaces were compared to those of living zebras. The sunlit zebra-striped barrels reproduced well the surface temperature characteristics of sunlit zebras. We found that there were no significant core temperature differences between the striped and grey barrels, even on many hot days, independent of the air temperature and wind speed. The average core temperature of the barrels increased as follows: White cattle, grey cattle, real zebra, artificial zebra, grey horse, black cattle. Consequently, we demonstrate that zebra-striped coats do not keep the body cooler than grey coats challenging the hypothesis of a thermoregulatory role of zebra stripes.</p>},
  author       = {Horváth, Gábor and Pereszlényi, Ádám and Száz, Dénes and Barta, András and Jánosi, Imre M. and Gerics, Balázs and Åkesson, Susanne},
  issn         = {2045-2322},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {12},
  number       = {1},
  publisher    = {Nature Publishing Group},
  series       = {Scientific Reports},
  title        = {Experimental evidence that stripes do not cool zebras},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-27637-1},
  doi          = {10.1038/s41598-018-27637-1},
  volume       = {8},
  year         = {2018},
}