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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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Temperature regulation

Temperature regulation

(p.153) Seven Temperature regulation
Zebra Stripes

Tim Caro

University of Chicago Press

Dark colored hair absorbs radiation whereas white hair reflects it and there is an idea that alternating black and white stripes could set up convection currents above the animal thereby cooling it. To test this, heat images were captured with a thermocamera that records temperatures at a distance. Unadjusted maximum temperatures showed no differences between plains zebra, impala, buffalo and giraffe in the wet season and zebras were cooler than impala and buffalo in the dry season. Body surface temperatures adjusted for shade, humidity, outside temperature and distance showed that zebras were nearly always warmer than other species whatever part of the body was considered. Given these findings and the problem that convection currents would be disrupted by animal movement or by breeze, the cooling idea seems unlikely. Nonetheless, the majority of individuals in herds directed their rumps at the sun during hot afternoons suggesting they were using their large white stripes present on their rumps in order to keep cool.

Keywords:   convection currents, cooling, heat management, surface temperatures, thermocamera

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