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This animal's optical illusion is a tactical advantage.

Photo of the Week: Signature Suit

Thirsty zebras at a waterhole in the Etosha Nationalpark in Namibia.

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Posted March 7, 2013. Photo courtesy of Kyle Hidalgo.

Are their coats white stripes on black or black on white? Zebras have dark skin and black fur with white stipes, giving each animal a distinct coloration as unique as fingerprints.

The ABQ BioPark is home to a herd of Grant’s zebras (Equus burchelli boehmi), which sport broad stripes that fade to gray and white, a pattern called shadow striping. Grant’s zebras walk, trot, canter and gallop in herds, ranging from Ethiopia and Somalia to northern South Africa. Like most ungulates, or hooved animals, zebras have great senses to detect potential predators.

Beautiful coats also give them an advantage over hungry lions and hyenas. Scientists believe that because zebras live in herds, their striping confuses predators. As shown in the upper-right picture, a herd of zebras looks like a sea of black and white, making it difficult to pick out an individual to attack.

Can you count the zebras one by one? Join the conversation on Facebook.

(Zebras at waterhole picture is from iStockphoto.)

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