White Stripes On The Skin Can Protect Against Insects

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The white stripes on the body of the indigenous people used to protect them from insect bites and the illnesses they spread, researchers from the University of Lund (Sweden) have demonstrated, for the first time, in a study published in the journal “Royal Society Open Science.”

Most of the indigenous communities that have painted their bodies with white stripes, looking like zebras, lived in ecosystems where horseflies, mosquitoes or tsetse flies abound. Whenever an insect stings a human being, there is a danger of transferring bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. On the other hand, the traditional body painting in white stripes has simultaneously evolved on different continents, and it cannot be precisely estimated when it started.

“Body painting began long before humans began dressing. There are archeological findings that include marks on the walls of the caves where the Neanderthals lived, suggesting that they also painted their bodies with earth pigments such as ochre,” explained Susanne Akesson, professor of biology at Lund University.

White Stripes On The Skin Can Protect Against Insects

For this research, whose experiments were carried out in Hungary, the researchers investigated three human-sized plastic models of the same size as an adult human. They colored one model in a dark color, one also in black but with white stripes, and the last one in a light color.

Then the scientists released insects. The model painted in a dark color drew ten times more insects than the one with white stripes. Also, the model colored in a pale color attracted two times more bugs than its striped counterpart.

In addition to all that, the researchers also studied whether the attraction of the insects varied according to the position of the models – standing or lying. The findings revealed that the standing models only drew female insects, while the lying models attracted both females and males.