Friday, December 21, 2012

Zebra Confusion

Since the world "goes on" as before but today's date (21/12/12) is nonetheless very special (if in stark contrast to what the Mayan Calender supposedly predicted), I prefer to concentrate on another kind of confusion: what a zebra's stripes "entails". Other than that a predator (like a lion) can't make out "head-or-tails" when a group of zebra "bundle together", a zebra's stripes are like a human fingerprint - each individual has a different pattern.

Other than that, the different zebra species can be distinguished by the pattern of their stripes - so the Plains zebra (or more commonly known as Burchell's zebra) have broad black (& widely spaced) stripes, alternating with thin light "shadow"-stripes (especially on the hind quarters) - but what if the legs are entirely white? When found in Namibia (as is the case with the zebra on this photo) are they Damara Zebra (a subspecies of the Plains zebra)?

Does that mean we are facing yet another sub-species when the stripes appear to be more brown than black - as is the case with most of these zebra (which I also "snapped" in Namibia)? Otherwise all the features are typical of a Plains zebra: vertical stripes on forepart of body, horizontal on the hind quarters, with (brownish) shadow-stripes in between.

Now these are typical Mountain zebra (also photographed in Namibia - in the Etosha Park) - but is there only 1 Mountain-zebra-species in Africa? Whilst doing some "research" about this on the internet, I found NO conclusive proof on any web-site to solve this "dilemma".

Some sites differentiate between the "Common" & the Cape Mountain zebra (the latter photographed in the Mountain Zebra Park just outside Craddock). Comparing the 2 (above & on the right) - you be the judge! Typical features of a Mountain zebra are: a short upright standing mane, a dark muzzle, long (more donkey-like) ears, a dewlap (fold of skin on the throat) & white bellies.

Now what about this zebra? For years I was under the impression that this was a Hartman's zebra - mainly because of its (typical) stripe on the spine & upper tail-portion, which is "zipper-like. Also, the people living & working around the hotels in Zambia at the Victoria Falls, where a small group of these zebra "are at home", confirmed this - but then an expert on the subject (& part of 1 of my tour-groups), corrected this - apparently & despite having closely spaced stripes right down to its hooves, as well as "missing" shadow-stripes, this is just another sub-species of the Plains zebra! Or is it possibly a Grant's zebra?? As I said - unfortunately information on this subject is rather "scares" on the internet.

Last but not least - yet another "version" of a Plains/ Burchell's zebra - its black stripes (especially on the hind quarters) look more like "irregular" veins, or even remind me of a lightning-pattern) - is this also a sub-species, or just reveals a more unique finger-print-pattern?

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