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Modern Mysteries

'Fairy circles' mystery solved

By T.K. Randall
March 30, 2013 · Comment icon 17 comments

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.


Source: Yahoo! News | Comments (17)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by TheSpoonyOne 11 years ago
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 11 years ago
Comment icon #10 Posted by Sakari 11 years ago
Comment icon #11 Posted by Hawkin 11 years ago
Fairy circles? What a name! How about sand circles. Sorta like crop circles.
Comment icon #12 Posted by csspwns 11 years ago
So much for UFOs
Comment icon #13 Posted by woopypooky 11 years ago
so crop circles were done by rabbits?
Comment icon #14 Posted by Oppono Astos 11 years ago
so crop circles were done by rabbits? Nope, intoxicated hedgehogs.
Comment icon #15 Posted by HollyDolly 11 years ago
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 Doug1029 11 years ago
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. The cause of these desert pockmarks has been widely debated, but a species of sand termite, Psammotermes allocerus, could be behind the mysterious dirt rings, suggests a study published today (March 28) in the journal Science. 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 outwa... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Wickian 11 years ago
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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