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Image of the Day: Hot Stripes

Biologists study how a zebra’s hair helps it keep cool.

Chia-Yi Hou
Raised black stripe hair on a zebra
ALISON COBB

Biologists measured the temperatures of black and white hair stripes on zebras on sunny days in Kenya, reports a study published yesterday (June 13) in the Journal of Natural History. The authors found a 12- to 15-degree-Celsius difference in temperature between the two different colors of the coat. This leads to chaotic air movement that promotes heat dissipation. Moreover, zebras can raise the black stripes separately from white stripes, perhaps to thermoregulate by adding more turbulence to the airflow over the coat. Indeed, the team found that a dead and dried zebra hide got 16 degrees hotter than the coats of living zebras.

A. Cobb, S. Cobb, “Do zebra stripes influence thermoregulation?” J Nat Hist, doi:10.1080/00222933.2019.1607600, 2019.

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zebra hair temperature regulation thermoregulation adaptations color air

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