Patterns and Flies (08-27-20)

How and colleagues build on earlier research that determined that biting flies are repelled by certain patterns on surfaces; their findings are useful to anyone picking fabrics for use in areas where flies might be a nuisance, for example.  The team learned that “Of all hypotheses advanced for why zebras have stripes, avoidance of biting fly attack receives by far the most support. . . . By recording and reconstructing tabanid fly behaviour around horses wearing differently patterned rugs, we could tease out these hypotheses using realistic target stimuli. We found that flies avoided landing on, flew faster near, and did not approach as close to striped and checked rugs compared to grey. Our observations that flies avoided checked patterns in a similar way to stripes refutes the hypothesis that stripes disrupt optic flow via the aperture effect. . . . Our data narrow the menu of fly-equid visual interactions that form the basis for the extraordinary colouration of zebras.”

Martin How, Dunia Gonzales, Alison Irwin, and Tim Caro. 2020.  “zebra Stripes, Tabanid Biting Flies and the Aperture Effect.”  Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, vol. 287, no. 1933, 20201521, https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1521