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How Zebra Got Its Stripes: Researcher Answers

12:18 PM, Dec 27, 2013   |    comments
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(Reuters)-- It's an evolutionary quirk that people have been trying to explain since 1870...why the zebra got its stripes. But now, one researcher believes he has the answer.

Johannes Zanker, a computational neuroscientist at Royal Holloway University, says it's all in the movement. "So basically in what the brain sees when a person or an animal looks at zebras, there are very peculiar motion illusions generated in the brain. Their stripe patterns confuse the visual system of a potential predator, or, let's say, equally, of insects, which are not just a nuisance to these animals, but also could be carrying diseases."

Zanker's motion illusion is also seen in barber shop poles and wagon wheels. The illusion makes the movement of the objects appear different to their movement in reality. Zanker says the findings could have wider significance - especially for road safety. He argues that if zebra crossing lines were painted horizontally to approaching cars, drivers would be more inclined to notice them earlier.

Reporter:Joel Flynn, Reuters

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