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Author Topic: How can a zebra be camouflaged?  (Read 8126 times)

Offline DoctorBeaver

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« on: 23/02/2008 00:01:21 »
You'd think that an animal with black and white stripes would stand out in the type of environment that zebras live in. But, in fact, their colouration is extremely good camouflage when looked at from ground level. How come?

Let's see if any of you come up with the right answer.


 

Offline JimBob

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #1 on: 23/02/2008 02:31:23 »
The have lookouts so when you get close they put on their camouflage suits.
 

another_someone

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #2 on: 23/02/2008 05:21:50 »
There were some experiments in WWII with camouflaging aircraft by putting light bulbs on them - I think it worked, but I don't think aircraft fly well with lots of lightbulbs on them.


There are a number of issues with zebra.

Firstly, ofcourse, they are not looking to camouflage themselves from humans, but mostly I imagine from big cats, which have less good colour vision to primates.

Secondly, the main purpose of the stripes is to break up the outlines, so it is difficult to tell that the shape you are looking at is a zebra shape (even more so as they move, and the moving stripes would confuse even more).  I don't know if heat haze might further add to the confusion of shapes.

And, ofcourse, from a very great difference, the stripes will merge to a general grey.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #3 on: 23/02/2008 08:50:50 »
There were some experiments in WWII with camouflaging aircraft by putting light bulbs on them - I think it worked, but I don't think aircraft fly well with lots of lightbulbs on them.


There are a number of issues with zebra.

Firstly, ofcourse, they are not looking to camouflage themselves from humans, but mostly I imagine from big cats, which have less good colour vision to primates.

Secondly, the main purpose of the stripes is to break up the outlines, so it is difficult to tell that the shape you are looking at is a zebra shape (even more so as they move, and the moving stripes would confuse even more).  I don't know if heat haze might further add to the confusion of shapes.

And, ofcourse, from a very great difference, the stripes will merge to a general grey.

That didn't take long. Well done, George. You can have a lollipop.

The heat haze causes a rippling effect on anything you look at that's more than a few yards away. The zebras' colouration & patterning cause them to become almost invisible when viewed from ground level which, as George rightly said, is the level from which their main predators view the world.
 

Offline turnipsock

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #4 on: 23/02/2008 11:09:18 »
It only works if they stand still.

A lot of animals see in white and black but are very sensitive to movement.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #5 on: 23/02/2008 20:37:09 »
It only works if they stand still.

A lot of animals see in white and black but are very sensitive to movement.

Not so. The heat haze shimmers so much that even movement is not easily detected.
 

Offline SquarishTriangle

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #6 on: 24/02/2008 12:58:15 »
And being a herd animal, black and white stripes make it more difficult to distinguish one animal from the next in a large herd. If you imagine a predator that is trying to target a specific zebra in the herd (say a weaker animal), the task of tracking that one animal may become somewhat more tricky. Also, as a predator running amongst a mess of stripes, you would not want to find yourself at the back end of a zebra since, like horses, they kick.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #7 on: 24/02/2008 14:28:25 »
And being a herd animal, black and white stripes make it more difficult to distinguish one animal from the next in a large herd. If you imagine a predator that is trying to target a specific zebra in the herd (say a weaker animal), the task of tracking that one animal may become somewhat more tricky. Also, as a predator running amongst a mess of stripes, you would not want to find yourself at the back end of a zebra since, like horses, they kick.

Indeed; although would that, in the strictest terms, class as camouflage? That aspect of their colouration confuses the predator rather than helping them to blend into the environment. But, either way, it's still very useful.
 

Offline SquarishTriangle

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #8 on: 26/02/2008 14:44:30 »
Indeed; although would that, in the strictest terms, class as camouflage?

Camouflage:   The disguise that a species of animal develops (through natural selection ) that enables individuals to hide from predators by blending in with their surroundings, usually through the colour and pattern of their skin or fur.
(A Dictionary of Environment and Conservation. Chris Park. Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online)

Camouflage:   A form of visual deception, by means of which an animal can elude predators, or a predator may lurk undetected, awaiting prey.
(A Dictionary of Animal Behaviour. David McFarland. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online)

Camouflage:   A high degree of similarity between an animal and its visual environment, which enables it to be disguised or concealed. By blending into the background the animal can elude predators or remain invisible to potential prey.
(A Dictionary of Biology. Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press)

Cryptic coloration:   The type of colouring or marking of an animal that helps to camouflage it in its natural environment. It may enable the animal to blend with its background or, like the stripes of zebras and tigers, help to break up the outline of its body.
(A Dictionary of Biology. Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press)

...Maybe, maybe not? I'm not sure. :)
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #9 on: 26/02/2008 18:04:00 »
Quote
Camouflage:   A form of visual deception, by means of which an animal can elude predators, or a predator may lurk undetected, awaiting prey.
(A Dictionary of Animal Behaviour. David McFarland. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online)

I think that definition would qualify it as camouflage. It could elude predators by blending with the rest of the herd.
 

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How can a zebra be camouflaged?
« Reply #9 on: 26/02/2008 18:04:00 »

 

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