Zebra

Article

October 28, 2021

Zebra (subgenus Hippotigris, also known as striped horse) is an animal from Africa known for its black-and-white striped body. There are three extant species: the grévy zebra (Equus grevyi), the plains zebra (E. quagga), and the mountain zebra (E. zebra). Zebras are part of the genus Equus as are horses and donkeys. All three are the remaining groups of the Equidae family. Each individual zebra has a distinctive mottled pattern. There are several theories regarding the function of the stripes, and the theory most supported by evidence is as protection from fly bites. Zebras inhabit eastern and southern Africa, and can be found in a wide variety of habitats such as savannas, grasslands, forested areas, bushland, and mountainous areas. Zebras are grazing animals that can survive by eating low-quality plants. They fall prey to lions and usually run away when they feel threatened, but they can also bite and kick. Zebra species have different social behavior. The plains and mountain zebras live in stable harems consisting of a male, several females, and their young, while the grévy zebra lives alone or in unrelated herds. In harem-owning species, adult females only mate with males from their harem. Meanwhile, the male zebra grévy forms territory that attracts females, and the species also has multiple partners. Zebras communicate with a variety of voices, body postures, and facial expressions. Social care strengthens bonds between individuals in plain and mountain zebras. Zebra stripes make them the most easily recognized animals. They have been the theme of many works of art and stories in Africa and other regions. Historically, they have been targeted by exotic animal collectors. However, unlike horses or donkeys, zebras were never domesticated. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the grévy zebra as critically endangered, the mountain zebra as vulnerable, and the plains zebra as near threatened. One type of plains zebra called the quagga went extinct in the 19th century. However, zebras can still be found in various protected areas.

Origin of name

The word "zebra" can be traced back to 1600 and comes from Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese. The term probably comes from the Latin equiferus meaning "wild horse"; the term itself is a combination of the words equus ("horse") with ferus ("wild, savage"). Equiferus seems to have been absorbed into Portuguese as ezebro or zebro, originally referring to the mysterious (and possibly wild) animal Equus in the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages. In ancient times, the zebra was called hippotigris ("tiger horse") by the Greeks and Romans.

Taxonomy and evolution

Zebras are classified in the genus Equus along with horses and donkeys. These three groups are members of the Equidae family that still survives today. The plains zebra and mountain zebra are usually included in the subgenus Hippotigris (C. H. Smith, 1841), while the grévy zebra is considered the only species in the subgenus Dolichohippus (Heller, 1912). Groves and Bell (2004) place these three species into the subgenus Hippotigris. A phylogenetic study from 2013 found that the plains zebra is more closely related to the grévy zebra than the mountain zebra. The extinct quagga was originally classified as a distinct species. However, later genetic studies have classified this animal as the same species as the plains zebra, either as a subspecies or as its southernmost population. Molecular evidence suggests that zebras have a monophilic lineage (a group of organisms

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