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Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

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LONDON — Zebra stripes are dazzling, particularly to flies.

That’s the conclusion of scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of California at Davis who dressed horses in black-and-white striped coats to help determine why zebras have stripes.

Researchers found that horseflies landed on the bedecked horses less frequently than on those without the striped coats. They say this offers evidence that zebra stripes provide protection from blood-sucking insects that spread diseases.

Martin How, a member of the team from the University of Bristol, says “stripes may dazzle the flies in some way once they are close enough to see them with their low-resolution eyes.”

The research is being reported in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

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