We are often attracted to the colorful wildlife on this planet, but for today, Black Friday, let’s take a look at our charismatic black-and-white animals.
There are all sorts of black-and-white animals, domestic-bred and wild, mammals and insects and everything in between. As always, I will focus exclusively on the wild animals here.
Zebras are probably the most fascinating, for their psychedelic coats.
The human fascination for zebras goes back centuries, and so do the scientific theories for their striped patterns.
In studies of the evolution of wild animals, defense is usually the key consideration. One defense theory for zebras is that in a group of them the striped patterning makes it difficult for a predator to focus on just one individual, a sort of camouflage.
Take one look at a zebra group (below), and you see firsthand how your eyes have a hard time focusing on any one individual.
Aptly, a collective noun for zebras is “dazzle.”
There are many more zebra-stripe theories, read more here: Zebra Wikipedia under Stripes
In contrast, defense for skunks, another black-and-white, is notoriously their smell. That strong obnoxious liquid they spray is a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals. Most predators rarely attack skunks due to the foul spray…except for one.
Great horned owls are the only predator to routinely attack skunks, due to the skunks’ poor sense of smell. They take down all six skunk species, even the heavier-bodied striped skunk species seen here.
Orca whales, badgers, pandas, and many more wild mammals have black-and-white coloring.
I recently saw a fellow walker with a Dalmatian dog, and that got me thinking about all the domestic-bred pied animals. The list keeps growing.
The black-and-white colobus monkeys, one of my favorite monkey species, are an Old World monkey. Sitting in a jeep one day on Mount Kenya, I heard a lot of rustling in the trees overhead. What a pleasant surprise to see these animated monkeys swinging from tree to tree, their fluffy white tails illuminated by the sun.
Our flightless birds the penguins–a familiar and loveable black-and-white presence on earth.
These Galapagos Penguins, below, are the only penguin species that live north of the equator. They typically live in caves and crevices for protection. Now listed as Endangered, this trio was under mangrove roots along the shoreline.
Of the flying birds, there are many black-and-whites.
Some are more familiar like woodpeckers, gulls, terns, and magpies.
This magpie photo reflects the color blue (on the rump), often not seen in a bird that is primarily black and white. Only if the sun is shining just right does an iridescent color appear. I’ve seen it at different times in magpies, the pied kingfisher, and bufflehead ducks, to name a few.
Here are two lesser-known black-and-white birds in the U.S.
These striking black-and-white birds reside on other continents.
Lastly, it is interesting to note that many mostly-white birds often have black wing tips. It is theorized that the white feathers without pigment are not as strong as feathers with pigment. Dark wings or wing tips are thought to provide extra protection for the feathers most vulnerable to abrasion during flight.
Migrating birds who fly long distances, like the American white pelican and snow geese below, may benefit from their black wing tips.
While it seems that few things in life are ever just black and white, today we found some wonderment in the wildlife that is.
Written by Jet Eliot.
All photos in the wild by Athena Alexander.