Figure: Black and white stripes help protect zebras from mosquitoes
The black-and-white stripes on zebras not only protect them from bloodsucking mosquitoes, but also serve as camouflage. A new study suggests that the stripes on zebras may also apply to people living in remote tribes, who tend to paint their bodies striped.
The new study says traditional body paintings by tribes in Africa, Australia and Papua New Guinea may protect people from the bloodsucking horseflies in these areas.
Figure 2: In Alice Springs, central Australia, performers have stripes on their faces.
A team led by scientists from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary recently published their findings in the Journal of the Royal Society of England, describing their strange experiments to test the theory.
Researchers say they glued several plastic human models of different colors for four weeks on a horsefly-infested grassland in Hungary. Some of these models imitate dark skin, others light skin, and the rest are dark brown with white stripes.
At the end of the experiment, the researchers calculated the number of horseflies adhering to the model glue, and found that the fringe model had the least number of horseflies adhering to it, followed by the light skin model and the dark skin model. Among them, the dark skin model is 10 times more attractive than the fringe model, 5.1 times more attractive than the light skin model, and the light skin model is twice as attractive as the fringe model.
We found that if dark brown human models were painted with white stripes used in human body painting, their attractiveness to horseflies decreased significantly, the authors said. Therefore, white stripes of human body painting, such as those used by Africans and Australians, may play a role in preventing horse flies from biting.
The researchers add that this may mean reducing skin irritation from mosquito bites and reducing the risk of disease transmission. Susanne Akerson, a professor of zoology at Lund University in Sweden who participated in the study, said that horsefly bites can cause harm and spread diseases.
The color of our clothes also affects our attractiveness to horse flies and other biting mosquitoes, Akerson said. Instead of wearing black or dark clothes, wear light, white or beige, she suggests. In addition, people should avoid using any reflective materials, because they attract horse flies, because they look like water, which is where horse flies lay eggs.
Source: Liable Editor of Netease Scientist: Qiao Junyi_NBJ11279