Blood-sucking bugs avoid biting bodies painted with contrasting "zebra" stripes, according to a new study published by The Royal Society.
“Striped bodypainting protects against horseflies”, states the study's title, and quite firmly at that. The researchers had noted that zebras generally suffered less from biting horseflies compared to other, non-striped animals living in the same regions.
Could people from in those areas have picked up on this fact, and copied the zebras' natural defense? It seems highly probable but good science dictates that theories be tested, and that's just what the researchers did.
Experiments conducted in Hungary placed biting horseflies in close proximity to fabric swatches died brown, beige, and brown with white stripes. It was seen that the flies preferred the solid brown swatch over the striped swatch by a 10:1 ratio, and chose the beige swatch over the striped swatch by a 2:1 ratio.
Biting horseflies are endemic to populated regions of Africa, Australia, Papua New Guinea and North America... areas where tribal groups have historically employed striped body paint.
The conclusion drawn by the study is that while striped bodypaint may have been used for camouflage, heat regulation, and as a means of group identification, the practice also provides benefits by deterring a prime source of irritation and disease. (images via pxhere, Max Pixel, and Thomas Shahan)