Answer to whether Zebras are Black with White Stripes or White with Black Stripes
A zebra is indeed one of the stunning wild animals to encounter on a Rwanda wildlife safari especially at Akagera National Park. Here we want to answer the question of the zebra stripes, how the pattern is formed and the advantages of this pattern to the Zebras.
Are Zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes?
Even with a popular belief since the Medieval era that zebras had white bodies with black spots (The proof of this hypothesis lay in the fact that they had white underbellies), scientifically it is proven to be the opposite. In recent studies, Zebras are actually black with white stripes this is because Zebra embryos are completely black, the white stripes appear during the last embryonic stage. You can be keen on the underbelly of a Zebra on your wildlife safari in Rwanda to prove this.
How is the Striping Pattern Formed?
Each zebra specie actually has a different striping pattern! This is mainly due to selective pigmentation. With zebra embryos being completely black and the white stripes appearing at the last embryonic stage. The Melanocyte skin cells produce the pigments that give color to the fur.
This is where the hypothesis that zebras are black with white stripes makes sense, as the pattern is a result of pigment activation (black) and inhibition (white). This means that black is the actual color of the fur, and the white patches are simply the areas that have little or no pigmentation. The fact that the skin under a zebra’s fur is black further supports this conclusion.
Are there any advantages of this patterns/stripes?
Zebra stripes act as deterrent to flies and other blood-sucking parasites which confuses and discourages them from landing and taking a bite. Researchers from the University of Bristol and UC Davis, USA, spent time on a horse farm in Britain where they investigated the behaviors of tabanid horse flies around captive plains zebras and uniformly colored domestic horses using video analysis techniques. The discovery showed that the stripes don’t deter horse flies as such, especially at a distance, with both zebras and domestic horses experiencing the same rate of circling from the flies. However, video analyses revealed differences in approach speed, with horse flies failing to slow down on approach to zebras, which is essential for a successful landing. They therefore can’t land successfully on the zebra coat due to their low-resolution eyes.
A zebra’s stripes actually work as a camouflage to deter its main predators which are the lions and hyenas. Since the animals herd together, experts believe that the mass of stripes can confuse these predators by acting as an optical illusion that blends their figures together. Therefore, a herd of zebras can create an optical illusion of a giant mass, thus deterring any predators from taking on the herd alone.
These stripes help with heat regulation for Zebras since they spend a lot of time grazing on open plains, which means that they have to bear the intense heat for long periods of time. The zebras with the most prominent upper body stripes generally live in the Northern, equatorial region of their range, whereas those with less prominent upper body stripes are more commonly found in the Southern, cooler regions of the range. This geographic distribution supports the stripes’ utility as heat regulating tools.
A zebra is one of the calm animals in the wild and on a Uganda wildlife safari to Lake Mburo National Park, you can go biking/cycling through the park since its home to calm animals especially zebras.Many tourists tailor their wildlife tours to Akagera National park with a Rwanda gorilla trekking safari to Volcanoes National Park in the virunga massif adjacent to Congo’s Virunga National Park.
Take a Rwanda safari or any other safari in Africa and have an amazing blend of the zebra and other wildlife species.