Why Skunks Have Stripes - To Point To Fierce Anal Glands?
by Rachel Kaufman
A skunk's stripes aren't just for style: They may direct predators' eyes straight to the source of the animal's smelly anal spray.
A new analysis of data on and pictures of nearly 200 carnivorous mammals—including skunks, badgers, and wolverines—shows that fierce fighters tend to be more boldly colored than more peaceable animals, which tend to use camouflage to stay safe. And those colorations depend on the animals’ methods of defense.
Creatures such as skunks, which have long stripes down their body, “tend to be really good at spraying their anal gland secretions—not just dribbling them out,” said study leader Ted Stankowich, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Skunks are known to eject their offensive musk as far as about ten feet (three meters).
Other “species that are pretty good at [spraying]—they may not have pure stripes, but their blotches sort of form a stripe down the body.” On the other end, badgers—which bite attackers—often have stripes by their mouths. “We think these stripes may guide predators’ attention to the source of danger,” said Stankowich. “If you’re a badger and your mouth is the source of danger, that’s what you want to advertise.”…
(read more: National Geo)
(image: Eastern Striped Skunk, by Joel Sartore, National Geo)