”The treatments were black-and-white painted stripes, black painted stripes, and no stripes (all-black body surface)”
Weird that they didn’t have a fourth group with white painted stripes. Now, the group with black-and-white painted stripes is the only one that has white paint applied, so it could as well be that the white paint causes the difference.
I would love to drive by fields of zebra-painted cows, however it does make me wonder if there were other elements at play.
From the plos.org article above: "Biting flies are attracted to their host animals by odors, shape, movement, brightness, color, polarization and body temperature"
By painting on an animal, you are now changing not just the color (and perceived shape, which affects perception of movement), but also the odor (due to the paints) and perhaps interfering with how the flies will perceive the body temperature of the animal, too.
It would also be interesting to see how these specific data points compare between zebras and the cows used for these kinds of tests.
This is a short term fix at best.
Eventually, only those that can bite will survive.
I don't see how it can go the other way. Where eventually since only half of them bite, that ratio declines to zero. Can that happen with evolution?
I suppose there is a tipping point where if enough of the population can't find each other then they all die alone. Like rats in Alberta.
Another element at play could be that (I’m making this up, but it doesn’t seem impossible to me) zebras have thicker skin than cows, so that only half the fly species (or perhaps even only older, larger flies) can extract blood from them.
They painted black and while stripes on the cows. But they don't say what the controls were that I can see. Unpainted cows? Or cows painted a single colour.
I'd want to see all white and all black painted animals - perhaps the makeup of the paint put off the flies?
>Six Japanese Black cows were assigned to treatments using a 3 × 3 Latin-square design. The treatments were black-and-white painted stripes, black painted stripes, and no stripes (all-black body surface).
So apparently flies don't like white paint.
The idea of a blanket is better, but the problem is that the blanket would act as a tick sanctuary then.
Sometimes, it seems that everybody is trying to solve the wrong problems, in any case.
I'd like some more research given that cows come in black / white patterns, pure white, and pure black. Is stripes really a thing and how about the other patterns? Do we start breading for color now?
Anecdotally, I tend to attract mosquitoes a lot more than some other members of my family. I would imagine the same phenomenon is true among cows.
We all looked at him, and he didn't have a bite/blemish on him. Nothing. Not one.
I told him, you put that in a bottle and you'll be an instant millionaire.
One of the craziest phenomena it reveals is that once you've had malaria, you become more attractive to mosquitos than you were before!
Until this post, I didn't even realize people actually "felt" the bite as it was happening.
It would matter if we propose that different cows might have different traits that could bring such differences in bites counts. So it is not paint causes differences but cows themselves. It seems highly unlikely for me.
If evolutionary traits are likely to occurs, it is worth noting that the size of cow (1,400,000,000)  and zebra (800,000) population may have an impact on how fast these traits evolve to cope with the new normal.
And if I recall this was also in the news several years ago.
I wonder how long before the flies evolve to bother zebras?
I love the result. Given the farm automation for feeding, perhaps an automatic paint job could be added to that system as well.
Seems like a large number of flaws in this study:
1. This wasn't 100% so maybe flies avoided the painted cows and just went to bite the non painted cows in the study. Would this work if the whole herd was painted? I know from personal experience that the best mosquito repellant is to bring a "city slicker" as bait but you need DEET if one isn't available.
2. Maybe it's the paint and if you cover the entire cow the flies stay away entirely?
3. How long did this experiment run? Once they horseflies get hungry or ending their season, they get more aggressive (they are getting aggressive right now in Ontario)
On the other way, milk fortified with Antimony white, or even better the sweet white lead paint, would do surprising things to children health...