How do zebras and giraffes keep flies and mosquitoes away? They resort to a clever trick: they swing their tails “three times faster than a gravity-driven pendulum.”
Writing in Science, Elizabet Pennisi goes on to say:
“The tail works like a double pendulum in that it swishes from where it sticks out of the butt and then from another pivot point where the bone and skin part of the tail ends and the hair begins … Because of that second pivot, the tip can swing at a different speed or even direction than the rest of the tail. This flexibility enables the animal to interrupt its swishing and use both pivot points to take aim and powerfully swat the intruder before it has a chance to bite.”
God knew that in a fallen world zebras needed to have a mechanism for protecting themselves from insects.
The tail is not the zebra’s only defensive weapon. Its stripes also keep insects away, making it difficult for them to find a safe landing place.
Pennisi, Elizabeth. 2017. Watch a zebra turn its tail into a surprisingly effective fly swatter. Science (6 January).