Sunday, March 14, 2021

Motion Dazzle

What is the purpose of the bold black and white stripes on a zebra? They don't seem to function as a camouflage in the ordinary sense of making them invisible. 

According to David Attenborough's new "Life in Colour" series, the stripes protect them from large carnivorous enemies such as cheetahs or lions, In a fast-running attack, the stripes can create just enough confusion to frustrate the predator, who must make quick decisions on where to sink their claws or teeth.

They're like ordinary dazzle camouflage, but set in motion.

Stripes can also protect zebras from small attackers: flies.  Biting flies can be a real menace for zebras on the African plains.

Scientists have learned that the stripes interfere with the ability of flies to land on them. According to New York Times, once the flies get close to the zebra, the stripes "seemed to dazzle the flies so much that they couldn’t manage a controlled landing. Flies zoomed in too fast and either veered off just in time — or simply bumped into the zebra and bounced off."

Scientists have found that the stripes can reduce the number of flies by a factor of four.

Previously on this blog: Dazzle Camouflage
NY Times: "Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? Scientists Camouflaged Horses to Find Out"Inverse: "How motion dazzle works and why it matters to a zebra." 


Susan Krzywicki said...


SummaSummanum said...

I highly recommend to anyone interested, the work of the great pioneer G. H. Thayer.

Whatever the scientific value of his propositions may be nowadays, the work is highly suggestive to a painters mind.

Dariuszkieliszek said...

Very interesting. I heard that when scientists marked a zebra in older studies with paint for example then the lions would take that one out. It seems the camouflage is there to hide in the herd too.