How are the stripes a boon to the zebras?

A zebra looks like a horse that has worn a striped coat to look different. It is a member of the horse family, but as compared to other members of this family it stands apart because of its striped coat. What is even more amazing is that each animal has its own special pattern of stripes! There are three species of zebra that has survived over the ages. The most commonly found is Equus quagga — known either as the common zebra or as the plains zebra. It inhabits eastern and southern Africa — south of Ethiopia. The other species is Equus grevy, which is found in Somalia. It is the largest of all zebra species and has numerous thin stripes and very large ears. The third surviving zebra species is called the mountain zebra or Equus zebra. It has numerous narrow stripes and is found in the mountains of Namibia (South-west Africa) and Angola. At one time, there existed a species called quagga, which had stripes only on its head, but this kind of zebra is now extinct. Since all the species have parallel black or brown stripes on a white background, it is not off the mark to assume that the stripes must in some way be helpful for these grazing animals. Although a number of theories have been put to explain this phenomenon, none gives a very convincing explanation. According to one theory, the stripes create a ‘dazzle pattern’ and thus helps the zebra in hiding from its enemies by blending with the ‘shadow-sunlight’ patterns of the grasslands where it lives. Since the lion is its main enemy, this physical characteristic helps it to camouflage. Other researches have suggested that the stripes are disruptive, and create confusion in singling out an individual zebra when they are bunched together due to the overlapping of their outlines. This helps in protecting themselves, as a lion (in theory!) finds it difficult to single out a potential victim. The gestation period of zebras varies from 300 to 390 days. Usually one foal is born at a time, although twins are also a possibility. Zebras are grass-grazing animals; some roam around in open grassy plains, whereas others live in rough mountains. They usually live in small groups and are great fighters. It is difficult to tame or train them. Zebra became almost extinct by 1880.

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