Friday 10 February 2012

Striped Coat Keeps Flies Away

You may have read that the zebra's striped coat has developed, scientists think, to keep flies away. There has been much discussion as to why the high contrast zebra stripes had evolved. Tests have discovered that flies dislike striped coats and the narrower the stripes the better. Apparently the stripes reflect light in a way that puts flies off coming near.

zebra and tiger stripes. Photos (top): by andrew lorien
Photo (bottom) by TeryKats

On the basis of this finding, many doors must surely be opened. Human clothes should be striped if you are living in warmer equatorial climates, for instance.

What, though, of the tiger. We all agree that tiger stripes are good camouflage in long grass, forest and under dappled light. But I have doubts about the effectiveness of the camouflage.

The stripes of a tiger are very sharp and high contrast. Most wildcats have a broken pattern that is more in tune with the environment where they live. Their background color is grey brown and the pattern spotted. Their spots are often broken or doughnuts (rosettes).

No wild cat has such a striking striped coat as the tiger. Cats like the ocelot and margay have heavily patterned coats and densely colored patterns but not sharp high contrast stripes.

It just crossed my mind whether the tiger too has developed his high contrast stripes as both camouflage and as a fly repellant? The tiger needs good camouflage less than the other wild cats as it is the top predator so perhaps it lost some its camouflage in a trade off with fly repellant.

See also tiger patterns and tiger stripes.

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