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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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(p.99) Five Ectoparasites
Zebra Stripes

Tim Caro

University of Chicago Press

Experimental studies show that glossinid tsetse flies and tabanid horse flies do not like to land on striped surfaces. To extend these findings, rates of tail swishing and being bothered by insects were recorded for zebras and other herbivores in Katavi, and for zebras and non-striped equids in the Berlin zoo. Zebras were not immune from insect annoyance. Examining the effects of stripes on tsetse flies, striped and unstriped canonical traps and cloth squares were erected in the field but there was no benefit of stripes, however tsetse flies are often attracted by movement. To examine tabanids’ reaction to striping, black and striped canopy ball traps and later canopy traps with balls wrapped in zebra or wildebeest pelts were erected in the field. Striped canopy traps captured markedly fewer tabanids. Movement was investigated by walking in suits, in animal pelts, and by driving with pelts on the car but there were no strong effects of striping on flies. Suggestions that white pelage reduces reflected polarized light compared to dark pelage could not be replicated. The working hypothesis is that white and black stripes lower luminance reflected off zebras and reduce the animal’s salience or disturb fly landing responses.

Keywords:   fly traps, glossinids, insect annoyance, polarized light, tabanids, tsetse flies

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