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'Fairy circles' mystery solved


Posted on Saturday, 30 March, 2013 | Comment icon 17 comments | News tip by: Still Waters


Image credit: CC 3.0 Stephan Getzin

 
Mysterious grassless rings appearing in the South African desert are believed to be made by termites.

The rings known as "fairy circles" had perplexed researchers for decades, appearing in regular patterns throughout the Namib Desert with no discernible cause. In a six-year study of the phenomenon, biologist Norbert Juergens made a discovery that would seem to explain what was causing them - sand termites. The insects were consistently found at the site of the circles and appeared to be feeding on the grass roots.

Juergens reasoned that without the grass in the circles, any rainwater than hit the ground would be absorbed in to the soil where it would provide sufficient moisture to keep the termites alive. What is still unclear however is what specific process leads to the patches being circular in shape.

"Known as fairy circles, these patches crop up in regular patterns along a narrow strip of the Namib Desert between mid-Angola and northwestern South Africa, and can persist for decades."

  View: Full article |  Source: Yahoo! News

  Discuss: View comments (17)

   


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by TheSpoonyOne on 31 March, 2013, 0:34
To be honest, South Africa isn't exactly the place I'd imagine fairies showing up even if they did exist. :/
Comment icon #9 Posted by AlienDan on 31 March, 2013, 0:35
Comment icon #10 Posted by Sakari on 31 March, 2013, 1:32
Comment icon #11 Posted by Hawkin on 31 March, 2013, 3:14
Fairy circles? What a name! How about sand circles. Sorta like crop circles.
Comment icon #12 Posted by csspwns on 31 March, 2013, 23:30
So much for UFOs
Comment icon #13 Posted by woopypooky on 1 April, 2013, 10:42
so crop circles were done by rabbits?
Comment icon #14 Posted by Oppono Astos on 1 April, 2013, 12:33
Nope, intoxicated hedgehogs.
Comment icon #15 Posted by HollyDolly on 26 April, 2013, 13:56
There is an ant that also will clear the grass away from where it nests into circular areas,forgot what they are called.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Doug1o29 on 26 April, 2013, 15:04
There are lots of things that form "fairy rings." Fungi consume the available organics out of the soil. The center of the patch then starves for lack of food, while the edges expand outward. You can see this in lawns after a good rain. It's pretty cool when you find a complete ring. There's a ring-shaped creosote bush in the Mojave Desert that has consumed the nutrients in the inner area. Based on size and rate-of-spread, it is estimated at 15,000 years old - older than the desert it's in. Some types of bunch grass in dry areas do this. There's not enough water in t... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Wickian on 27 April, 2013, 0:33
Makes sense, I have a large backyard with quite a few ant colonies(the mellow large black ant variety that you can put your hand into a line of and they'll just walk over you if you do it right) and their ant holes are cleared of all plant life in a few feet radius. They eat all the seeds/foxtails all year long.


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