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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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The case for biting flies

The case for biting flies

(p.193) Nine The case for biting flies
Zebra Stripes

Tim Caro

University of Chicago Press

Several outstanding questions remain to be answered if we are to cement the case for biting flies being the evolutionary cause of striping in zebras. These include knowing which groups of flies principally annoy zebras in the wild, and the local population sizes of such problem flies. We need to know that biting flies use visual cues at some point before landing on their host. Additionally we need to know how stripes themselves benefit zebras rather than simply having a two tone coat or having spotted pelage. The diseases and parasites carried by blood sucking diptera and the incidence of diseases in these ectoparasite vector populations need investigation. Visual ecologists can help solve why flies do not land on striped surfaces and the role of polarized light, while epidemiologists can help tell us why biting flies are so problematic: is it because of disease, blood loss or preventing hosts from foraging effectively. Last, nuanced questions still remain: why are zebras not entirely white; why are they are striped not spotted; why do they have light colored bellies; and why do Grevy’s zebras have thinner stripes than other species are all open questions.

Keywords:   diseases, fly population sizes, landing responses, remaining questions, vector ecology

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