In “Black, White and Stinky: Explaining Bold Coloration in Skunks” (ScienceDaily June 8, 2011), we learn about warning colors in mammals (who can’t usually do fashion runway colours):
… , the authors identified the 10 strongest models, then looked at which variables most commonly occurred in those models. These strongest models were used to calculate summary weights for each factor, an indicator of the importance of each predictor. They found that the evolution of boldly colored body patterns was best explained by body length, habitat openness, anal spray ability and burrowing behavior.
They also found that species with horizontal stripes along the body leading to the tail are more likely to be able to spray their anal gland secretions at predators in defense, suggesting that the stripes also direct the predator’s attention to the area where the weapon is found. Similarly, a previous study found that facial stripes in this group were found in species that defend themselves by fighting, often with strong bites.
Overall, these anti-predator strategies appear to have evolved independently several times among the Carnivora, say Stankowich and colleagues. So, for example, other nocturnal, slow, stocky, small-to-medium animals with bold black-and-white coloration signaling the presence of noxious anal gland secretions and/or the ability to fiercely defend themselves can be found living in open areas in Africa as well as North and South America and Europe.