Tuesday, 26 November 2019 11:13

Why the stripes?

Written by  Milking It

An experiment on a herd of cows in central Japan appears to have proven a radical, nature-inspired solution to a pest problem plaguing farmers.

Zebras and their gaudy coats have long intrigued scientists, spawning theories on how and why a few equine species developed stripes. A consensus emerged: the zigzag pattern was an evolutionary response to biting insects, especially carriers of deadly diseases. Insects, it seems, have a harder time landing on striped surfaces than solid-colored ones.

If it works for wild horses in Africa, why not cows in a Japanese pasture? So pondered the staff of the Aichi Agricultural Research Center, near the city of Nagoya. Together with agri school colleagues at Kyoto University, the center decided to experiment on its herd of Japanese black cattle. The white-striped cows sustained only half as many bug attacks as either of the other groups. 

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