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Two zebra stallions playfight among wildebeest herd

Zebras are one of the most distinctively patterned mammals on earth. Their unique black and white striping has made them the subject of art and stories for centuries. They are beautiful to watch, especially when they gather in a herd and blend together in one of nature's most splendid optical illusions. Scientists have debated the purpose or benefit of these stripes for years, concluding that they are confusing to predators who try to visually isolate an animal during pursuit. This creates a problem for lions that are trying to exhaust a single zebra by continually chasing it. This is hotly debated, as the stripes do not match background structures of the zebra habitat that would make them more camouflaged. Zebras also flee and separate during a chase, so lions would not have any obvious difficulty with the stripes. Another theory is that the striped pattern is a deterrent for biting flies. It was found that flies preferred solidly coloured surfaces for landing. Thermoregulation was also suggested and studied, but there was no evidence that these stripes helped dissipate heat in any way. These young males are beautiful as they posture and push each other around, establishing dominance and social position. It's all friendly enough and there seems to be no intent to injure. Much like horses, zebras have a complex and important social structure within the herd. These behaviours are crucial to the way the herd relationships are managed. Grooming each other and biting at the manes are also important behaviours that assist with social bonding.

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