Mima mounds in Washington State. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Jerrye and Roy Klotz
Scientists believe that plants, not animals, are responsible for the strange vegetation-topped mounds.
Found across the American prairies and in other countries all over the world, these unexplained topographical anomalies have been the subject of scientific debate and study for years.
Several explanations have been proposed including the idea that animals such as gophers may be responsible for creating them, but now a new study has suggested that the real culprit isn't animals at all but plants - or the spatial patterning of plants to be precise.
"My sense of the literature is that people look at the mounds and think they're faunally generated by default," said study co-author Michael Cramer. "We're suggesting that people should have a more balanced view and entertain the possibility that vegetation could be behind mound formation."
Plants are not believed to generate the mounds directly but instead have a cumulative effect on the surrounding soil erosion through their growth and absorption of nutrients.
"If you have a patchwork of vegetation islands, they protect the soil from erosion, while the inter-patch soil gets eroded away," said Cramer. "This results in a deflation of the surface, which leaves behind the mounds."
Source: Live Science | Comments (8)