Footballers who wear stripes could learn from the animal kingdom how to confuse their opponents – if they run fast enough.
Research published by scientists shows that animals with stripes can confuse their predators by appearing to be blurred when they move quickly.
To find this out, scientists at Newcastle University played praying mantises footage of rectangular shapes designed to imitate bugs, moving across a background.
The movement was designed to be similar to the experiences of praying mantises in the wild.
The bugs, some of which had narrow or wide stripes, would move across the screen at different speeds, with the mantises tracking them as though they were prey.
Scientists found that the mantises found it particularly difficult to spot the bugs with narrow stripes moving at faster speeds.
This is believed to be because the stripes on the animal become blurred to the predator and harder to see when they move at speed.
While it has been known for some time now that certain animals camouflage better by blending into their surroundings, it is the first time that it has been proven that some animals benefit from moving to hide themselves.
The lead author of the research, Professor Candy Rowe, explained that speed and stripes would be a winning combination in the wild.
“While we did this experiment with praying mantises chasing rectangular bugs on a computer screen, the same principle should apply in the wild,” he said.
“So maybe stripes help to hide zebras running on the plains, or hoverflies flitting from flower to flower,” she said.
Prof Rowe went on to say that footballers could benefit from the findings.
“So Newcastle United’s stripes may be helping throw off their opponents – as long as the players are running fast enough,” she said.
Sir Alex Ferguson once famously switched Manchester United’s grey away kit when they were losing a match in 1996.
The manager said he felt players were not able to make each other out in the bright sunshine and that they were blending in with the crowd. Manchester United never wore that kit again.