The Age-Old Debate Answered: Are Zebras White With Black Stripes? | Kidadl


The Age-Old Debate Answered: Are Zebras White With Black Stripes?

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Zebra's stripes are black and white, but which color is on which?

African black and white zebras are famous for their beautiful stripes. It is common for onlookers to wonder whether zebra stripes are white over black or vice versa.

Zebras are wild animals from the family of horses and donkeys. These animals are native to Africa. Zebras are usually found grazing together in small and large herds. They graze most commonly in grasslands. There are at least 11 different zebra species and subspecies in the world. Each zebra species has its own habitat.

These animals are all black and white in color. Some believe zebras are black with white stripes while others believe they are white with black stripes. People have been debating over this forever. Is there a unique and specific answer to this? Has science been able to tell us that? Let’s find out! After you are able to determine about this feature of zebras, do read about can you ride a zebra? And are zebras horses?

What color are zebras?

Did you know that strips on the torso of a zebra living in the northern hemisphere of Africa will be darker as compared to a zebra living in the southern hemisphere? Some people would say 'what kind of question is this?' It is obvious and common knowledge that they are all black and white in color.

A zebra is much like a horse but with beautiful stripe patterns on its skin. Most of their body is covered in black pigment.

Zebras are believed to be white with black stripes; most of the body of the animal is covered in black stripes. You will be surprised to know that certain species of zebras have a slightly red or brown tinge to their stripes. They look like they have just been in the mud. That is why people never believe zebras have been colored anything other than purely black and white. All other species have a distinct black color over white bodies.

A zebra's belly is white in color and devoid of any stripes or patterns. The black and white color of zebras acts as a natural camouflage in the African regions. They are easily able to hide from predators in long, tall African vegetation. It is, thus, in the best interest of zebras to be colored black and white.

Are zebras white with black stripes or vice versa?

The debate of zebras being black with white stripes and white with black stripes has been around for quite some time now. It is genuinely confusing when you look at a zebra to know exactly how they are colored.

Scientists have now provided us with a final and certain answer to this question about zebra stripes. A research was conducted extensively with the sole purpose of finding out the color dynamics of zebras.

It took several studies to confirm the fact that even though it looks like zebras are white with black stripes, it is not the case. Surprised right? The lowdown is, zebras have white stripes on black. The most important factor that led to this conclusion is the color of their skin. Zebras were shaved to find that out. Shaved zebras are totally unrecognizable. You would never say that a shaved zebra is a zebra because their skin is completely black. The melanocytes are cells in the body that give pigmentation to the skin. In zebras, stripes do not activate the melanocyte cells hence remain colorless, white. Both these pieces of evidence found during the research lead us to believe that zebras are indeed black with white stripes.

Burchell's or Plains Zebra in Tanzania

What is the purpose of zebra's stripes?

Zebras acquire stripes because the pigment-inducing cells are not activated in certain parts of their body. Scientists have often wondered why, in zebras, would certain parts activate those cells while others won't. To find out about this a study was conducted in which researchers dressed black horses in striped costumes and let them live amongst a herd of zebras, in a common patch.

The above-mentioned study is not unique but it is the one that was done on the largest scale yet. The results of that study did not give very certain results but researchers have derived a few theories as to why zebras have stripes in the first place.

One of the theories is that it is to protect them from flies. Flies find it confusing to land on black and white striped surfaces. Hence, their stripes provide protection against these flies. Another theory is that these stripes in zebras provide thermoregulation. The black color absorbs heat and keeps them warm during chilly nights and the white color deflects heat and helps them cool off during warm afternoons. Another theory suggests that zebra's stripes act as camouflage and provide them protection against predators.

Do all zebra species have the same color pattern?

There are at least 11 different types of zebras in the world. Each sub-species has characteristics that distinguish it from the others. The patterns in stripes of zebras are one such distinguishing characteristic.

Not all zebra species have the same color patterns. Each species of these animals has a different pattern that helps to categorize them if you look closely enough. Zebras belonging to the same sub-species have the same color patterns.

The general patterns on different sub-species of zebras are different. But no two zebras have exactly the same color pattern. There are slight changes here and there that help identify each individual. One can say the zebra stripes are their fingerprints.

The Grevy's zebra is a species that has very narrow and thin stripes. Some of these zebras have brownish-colored stripes alongside and between the black stripes. These brownish stripes look like dark shadows of the black stripes when seen from a distance. The mountain zebras have horizontal stripes on their haunches but when it comes to their torso and neck, the stripes turn out to be vertical. Many such different patterns are observed in different species of zebras.

How is the pattern of stripes determined?

African zebras have a number of striped patterns. The striped patterns help these animals to camouflage themselves from predators.

The white stripes end towards the belly and a plain white surface is observed on the belly of zebras. These various patterns are determined by their biological evolution. The fur coats of all zebras are a part of these patterns but the skin of these animals is not. Herds of zebras have been studied together and the science behind the formation of different patterns of black and white stripes has been determined.

Differences have been observed in patterns of coats. It is now understood that some species of zebras start developing black and white stripes on their coats at an early age. While others at a later age. The animals who develop stripes at an early age grow up to have broad stripes whereas the ones who develop stripes, later on, have narrower stripes. The broadness and narrowness of the stripes are also dependent on the size of the zebras when they start to develop. When zebras who developed stripes at an early age grow up, their stripes just go on getting broader. No stripes are added later on.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are zebras white with black stripes? Then why not take a look at African savanna animals or mountain zebra facts.

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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