Who first proposed the crypsis hypothesis to explain the function of the black-and-white stripes on zebras?
The zebra is an equine with distinctive black-and-white striped coats. These dazzling stripes make them among the most recognizable mammals featured in art and in stories emerging from Africa.
The crypsis hypothesis was first proposed by Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist and illustrator. He suggested that the stripes allow the zebra to blend in with its environment or breakout its outline so predators can not perceive the animal as a single entity.
The stripes may provide particularly good camouflage at nighttime, which is when lions and hyenas are actively hunting the zebra.
There are other hypotheses espoused since Wallaces’s first theory.
The confusion hypothesis stating that the stripes confuse predators.
The aposematic thesis suggesting that the stripes serve as warning coloration.
The social function hypothesis describes the stripes as serving a role in social bonding, mutual grooming facilitation or as a signal of fitness.
The thermoregulatory hypothesis suggests that the stripes help to control a zebra’s body temperature.
The fly protection hypothesis holds that the stripes deter biting flies, horse flies in particular, that spread diseases that are lethal to equines.
Because of Wallace’s extensive exploration he is sometimes called the “father of biogeography”.