The truth behind whether zebras are black or white

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'The Quick and the Curious': Are Zebras Black or White?

You may know that zebras derived from the horse family four million years ago and reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour -- but are the four-legged animals considered black or white?

The answer rests in something called melanocytes -- or the cells inside a zebra that produce the black pigment of their skin. Case solved!

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Those cells are the same ones that determine skin color in humans -- but unlike our species, the pigmentation in a zebra's skin transfers to its fur.

Therefore, the melanocytes in the black stripes have been activated -- while the melanocytes in the white fur are dormant. Simply put: Zebras are black.

Get more zebras in the gallery below:

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The truth behind whether zebras are black or white
In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), zebra and a calf are seen at a watering hole in northern Botswana. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International - Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT
A newborn zebra named Dragana sits by its mother at Belgrade Zoo, Serbia, Tuesday, March 23, 2010. Dragana, a female, was born on Monday. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), zebra run on a plain in northern Botswana. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International - Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT
In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), zebra are seen at a watering hole in northern Namibia. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International - Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT
In December born male zebra Jambo, left, plays with it's mother as it is enjoying the outdoor enclosure while shown to public for the first time at the Zoo in Wuppertal, Germany, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Wildebeest and zebra mount the opposite bank after crossing the Mara River, in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. Only months after their annual migration south to Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, thousands of wildebeest have been spotted back in the Maasai Mara, a rare occurrence which wildlife officials have said may be the result of drought and insufficient pastureland in Tanzania. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Five-day-old Heinrich, a Grevy's zebra, stands in front of his mother, Kianga, in the enclosure at the Tierpak zoo in Berlin on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A newborn baby zebra named Seka rests at the Belgrade Zoo, Serbia, on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Seka, a female, was born on Wednesday and is doing well. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A pair of zebras stand close each other as they munch grass at the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, March. 1, 2013. Visitors can meet with more than 1,600 animals of various types of domestic and international wildlife at the zoo. (AP photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Zebras stand in their enclosure at the Zoo in Wuppertal, Germany, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A zebra takes a dust bath by rolling in the dirt, at Crescent Island Wildlife Sanctuary on Lake Naivasha, Kenya Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In a photo provided by the Detroit Zoo, Jimmy, a recently born endangered male Grevy's zebra is shown with its mother, 19-year-old Elvia at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, Mich. The zoo announced Thursday, April 28, 2011 that the foal named Jimmy was born April 17 and will be on view at the zebra habitat at the zoo. (AP Photo/Detroit Zoo)
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Keep in mind, though, that where zebras live it has an affect on their stripes. Those in warmer climates have more stripes -- which is great for the overheated equines.

When air hits a zebra it moves quickly over the black light-absorbing stripes and slowly over the white.

This alternating current creates little swirls of air that makes their skin temperate about 5.4 degrees cooler than their non-stripped mammalian counterparts.

Either way you look at it, zebra stripes are both useful and definitely make a bold statement.

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