Zebra riddle solved claim scientists, according to reports in ABC News in Science, Science Shots and ScienceDaily 1 April 2014 and Nature Communications doi:10.1038/ncomms4535 1 April 2014. Ever since Darwin and Wallace speculated on the origins of zebra stripes there have been many theories about why zebras are striped, with suggestions ranging from camouflage to temperature regulation to social signalling. A group of scientists led by Tim Caro of the University of California at Davis claim they have come up with the best answer – protection from biting flies.
Several years ago scientists in Hungary carried out some experiments with horseflies on different coloured and patterned models. They found that the flies were attracted to evenly dark surfaces, but not black and white striped surfaces. The Hungarian scientists concluded that zebras had evolved stripes to minimise their attractiveness to biting horseflies. Caro’s team have followed up this finding by comparing the geographic range of zebras with the regions that have the best conditions for breeding horseflies and tsetse flies. They found the range for the most distinctively striped zebras overlapped significantly with the areas that had the best conditions for breeding horseflies. The researchers suggested that because zebras have short hair they are particularly easy for horseflies to bite, and therefore zebras have evolved their stripes to deter biting flies. They concluded their report: “A solution to the riddle of zebra stripes, discussed by Wallace and Darwin, is at hand.”
Editorial comment: Yes, this report really was published on 1st April. But notice what they actually found – an overlap between places that are good for breeding horseflies and places where highly striped zebras actually live. That is all! They did not directly map the presence of flies – only places that would be good for flies to breed So the leap of faith required to go from overlapping geographic ranges to explaining the origin of zebra stripes is so large perhaps you could be forgiven for asking if this report was an April Fool’s story. However, since it was published in Nature Communications – an online journal from the prestigious Nature Publishing Group, we will take it seriously.
There is no doubt that being bitten by horseflies is a bad thing, and if being striped deters flies then ‘stripeyness’ should help zebras survive in a place where there are flies. However since horseflies and tsetse flies bite other animals and also bite people, yet there are no striped people and few other striped animals, something is wrong with the explanation.
We wrote about the original Hungarian study in 2012 and asked the question: “How does being attacked by flies change the genes that control colour patterning in an animal’s skin?”(See “Zebra stripes confuse flies” Evidence News 16 February 2012 here.) This new study does not answer that question either, and therefore does not provide “a solution to the riddle of zebra stripes” any more than the previous study.
The fatal flaw with this study is the lack of insider information suffered by evolutionists, so here it is. Since all creatures started out vegetarian, horseflies did not bite zebras to obtain protein in the beginning. They got all they needed from the high quality plants God had made. (See Genesis 1:26 – 31) (Ref. natural selection, pigmentation, equids, evolution)
Evidence News, vol. 14, No. 5
10 April 2014
Creation Research Australia