This is the first piece in our week-long debut of Young Explorers – a new section of The Ethogram designed for our K-12 readers. Throughout the week, we will launch several new column types. Today’s column “Ask a Scientist” features answers to our Young Explorers’ questions. If you are a Young Explorer and have a question about animals, you or an adult can submit them here.
Momo meerkat writes “Why do zebras have stripes?”
Great question, Momo Meerkat! Scientists aren’t actually fully sure why zebras have stripes, but there are a couple major possible reasons. The stripes may discourage bugs from biting zebras, which can help keep them from getting sick. Stripes might also confuse the animals that eat zebras, like lions, by making it harder to pick out a single zebra from a herd. Lastly, scientists think that the stripes actually help keep the zebras cool – a major advantage in the hot African sun! The black stripes can help them trap sunlight in the cool mornings, and the white stripes can help them not get too hot in the afternoons. Keep exploring, Momo Meerkat!
See if you can spot zebras alongside other African animals on the live webcam from the Mpala Research Center in Laikipia, Kenya.
[Main photo credit: Meredith Lutz]