LONDON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- U.K. wildlife researchers say leopards' spots and tigers' stripes are a camouflage adaptation determined by their habitats and hunting habits.
Numerous studies have suggested wild cats need spots or stripes to "vanish" in dense forests, sandy deserts or snowy mountains, the BBC reported.
But in a new study, researchers examined the markings of 37 species of wild cats and focused on the patterns' detailed shapes and complexities, believed to be vital for the success of the camouflage.
Scientists used mathematical formulas to group and classify different patterns.
"[Some species] are particularly irregularly and complexly spotted," William Allen from the University of Bristol told BBC News.
"The pattern depends on the habitat and also on how the species uses its habitat -- if it uses it at night time or if it lives in the trees rather than on the ground, the pattern is especially irregularly spotted or complexly spotted."
Previously, some researchers had theorized wild cats used their color patterns to attract members of the opposite sex, but Allen's team discounted this theory, saying that if there were a sexual motive, "you'd expect to see different patterns in males and females, which you don't."