New study re-explores mystery behind zebra stripes 新研究重新探索斑馬條紋背後的奧秘

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很長一段時間以來,科學家們一直試圖弄明白斑馬的身上為什麼有條紋,以及這種獨特的黑白圖案到底是如何幫助它們抵禦潛在的掠食者的襲擊。早期的博物學家就此提出了 「運動眩暈」 理論,但科學家們發現,動物運動時的保護機制可能另有原因。

It’s something that’s puzzled biologists for over a century. You might think if you’re trying to avoid being hunted down and eaten, that sporting a striking black and white pattern isn’t exactly the best way to do it.

這是困擾了生物學家一個多世紀的難題。你可能覺得,如果在試圖避免被捕捉並被吞食的命運,那一身醒目的黑白圖案可不是最好的辦法。

But early naturalists thought otherwise. They put forward the theory of ‘motion dazzle’, believing that it’s hard for predators to estimate the speed or direction of patterned prey while it’s running.

但早期的博物學家卻不這麼認為。他們提出了 「運動眩暈」 理論,認為掠食者很難估計身上有圖案的獵物在奔跑時的速度和方向。

And somewhat in the spirit of that, dazzle patterning was used on ships in the First World War to help them evade being spotted. But can this really be the case?

本著這一認識,在第一次世界大戰中,令人眩暈的圖案被應用於船隻上,使其不易被發現,但這樣做真的有效嗎?

It’s counter-instinctive, perhaps. And scientists in Exeter have been taking a much closer look. They’ve been testing the theory using a touch-screen game called Dazzle Bug. That’s where you have to catch a rectangular bug, but it keeps changing its pattern in an effort to stop you doing so. What the scientists found was that even when they were moving, the bugs still tended to lose that clear patterning.

這個理論也許與我們的直覺相反。對此,英國埃克塞特的科學家們進行了更為仔細的研究。他們用一款名為 「眼花蟲(Dazzle Bug)」 的觸屏遊戲來測試 「運動眩暈」 理論。遊戲中,玩家需要捕捉一條長方形的蟲子,但這條蟲子會不斷改變它身上的圖案,以防被玩家捉到。科學家們發現,即使在移動過程中,這些蟲子仍然容易失去醒目的圖案。

It’s the strongest evidence yet against the ‘motion dazzle’ hypothesis. And as a consequence, the scientists suggest that protection in motion may rely on a completely different mechanism. Where that leaves the zebra is anyone’s guess. But while the results may raise more questions than they answer, it does reinforce the idea that even for scientists, nature is a constantly moving target.

這是迄今為止反駁 「運動眩暈」 假說的最有力證據。因此,科學家們認為,如何在移動的時候保護自己可能依賴於一種完全不同的機制。斑馬身上的條紋該如何解釋,誰也說不準。儘管研究結果引出的問題可能比它們給出的答案多,但研究確實進一步證實了這樣一個觀點:即使對科學家來說,大自然也是一個變幻莫測的研究對象。

詞彙表

puzzled 迷惑了,困惑了
hunted down 被捉捕
sporting 穿戴,裝點
pattern 圖案
naturalists 博物學家
predators 掠食者,掠食動物
patterned prey 身上長有圖案的獵物
evade 逃避,避開
spotted 被發現
counter-instinctive 與直覺相反的
touch-screen 觸摸屏的
hypothesis 假說
mechanism 機制
reinforce 進一步證實
target 目標,對象

閱讀理解:請在讀完上文後,回答下列問題。

1. True or false? Scientists in Exeter have discovered that the ‘motion dazzle’ hypothesis was correct.

2. How did early naturalists think zebra stripes worked?

3. Give an example mentioned in the text of how dazzle patterning was used.

4. How have scientists in Exeter been testing the 『motion dazzle’ theory?

答案

1. True or false? Scientists in Exeter have discovered that the ‘motion dazzle’ hypothesis was correct.
False. On the contrary, the result of their study is the strongest evidence yet against the ‘motion dazzle’ hypothesis.

2. How did early naturalists think zebra stripes worked?
They put forward the theory of ‘motion dazzle’, believing that it’s hard for predators to estimate the speed or direction of patterned prey while running.

3. Give an example mentioned in the text of how dazzle patterning was used.
Dazzle patterning was used on ships in the First World War to help them evade being spotted.

4. How have scientists in Exeter been testing the ‘motion dazzle’ theory?
They have been testing the theory using a touch-screen game called Dazzle Bug.