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Zebra Stripes$
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Tim Caro

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226411019

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226411156.001.0001

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Predation and confusion

Predation and confusion

(p.71) Four Predation and confusion
Zebra Stripes

Tim Caro

University of Chicago Press

The most popular idea for zebra coloration is that stripes confuse predators; however the hypothesis comes in many forms. None stand up to scrutiny. Zebras are no more difficult to count accurately than non-striped sympatric herbivores. Zebras do not bunch together when fleeing from the author and rarely present a continuous line of stripes that could make individual identification difficult; the same is true of flights recorded on web videos. Zebras do not explode in flights and so do not provide many striped moving targets. Videos revealed no lions missing their quarry as expected by a shimmering confusion effect. The author never misjudged zebra heights or girths more than non-striped herbivores. Last, the author did not misjudge the flight speeds of zebras more than topi, impala or waterbuck as predicted by motion dazzle, an idea currently popular with scientists and formerly with the navy. Most problematic for the confusion idea and indeed other antipredation hypotheses is that most studies in Africa show that lions kill zebras in greater numbers than expected from zebra abundance. Spotted hyenas, leopards and wild dogs take them less than expected but zebras are outside their prey size-range. The likelihood of confusion therefore appears remote.

Keywords:   counting animals, flights, misjudging size, misjudging speed, motion dazzle, videos

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