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Zebra Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Zebras live in open grasslands where there are a few trees, and they have special features that help them survive in their habitat. Come learn about some of these cool characteristics, known as adaptations, and why they are important to zebras.

Stripes Everywhere

You've probably seen those puzzles where you have to draw one line through a maze from start to finish without stopping. With all those black lines, it's very hard to see which path is the right one, and it looks very confusing. You'll probably have to erase your line several times before you figure out which path to take. The stripes on a zebra work in the same way as those lines in the maze. They are one of their many adaptations, which are characteristics that help zebras survive in their habitat.

Scientists think they may have those stripes for several reasons, including to help camouflage them. Think about it: when all those stripes start running at the same time, it could confuse a hungry lion who might not be able to tell one zebra apart from its entire herd just like the correct path in that maze.

Zebras blending in together
Zebras blending in together

Your skin will burn if you spend too long in the sun, so you have to use sunscreen. But scientists think a zebra's stripes might also act like built-in sunscreen and even bug repellent. Some insects might get confused by the stripes because they are looking for a solid color of fur to land on.

In addition, zebras each have their own special stripe pattern and no two are alike, just like your fingerprints are different from every other person on Earth. Those stripes might help zebras recognize each other the way you recognize your friends' faces.

I See You

Your eyes are in the front of your head, which is the perfect place for them since you don't have to worry much about other animals sneaking up on you. But zebras' eyes sit back really far on their head, which helps them get a better, wider view of what's going on around them.

Zebra eyes sit back far on each side of their head
Zebra eyes sit back far on each side of their head

Because they can see what's happening on each side of them, it's harder for an animal to creep up on them and turn them into a snack.

Helpful Hearing

Zebras also have very good hearing. This is important when you're trying not to become dinner for hungry animals like lions and hyenas that live in your habitat.

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