Mysterious African ’Fairy Circles’ Stump Scientists
2012-07-06 0:00

By Stephanie Pappas | LiveScience.com



In the sandy desert grasslands of Namibia in southern Africa, mysterious bare spots known as "fairy circles" will form and then disappear years later for no reason anyone can determine. A new look at these strange patterns doesn’t solve the wistful mystery but at least reveals that the largest of the circles can linger for a lifetime.


The smallest are about 6.5 feet (2 meters) in diameter, while the largest can be almost 40 feet (12 m) across. Eventually, plants move back in, re-colonizing the circles and leaving only slightly indented "ghost circles" behind.
Photo: Mike and Ann Scott of the Namib Rand Nature Reserve


Small fairy circles stick around an average of 24 years, while larger ones can exist as long as 75 years, according to research detailed today (June 27) in the journal PLoS ONE. Still, the study sheds little light on why the circles form, persist and then vanish into the landscape after decades.

"The why question is very difficult," said study researcher Walter Tschinkel, a biologist at Florida State University. "There are a number of hypotheses on the table, and the evidence for none of them is convincing."


Circles of life (and death)

Tschinkel grew interested in fairy circles during a 2005 safari to NamibRand Nature Reserve in southwest Namibia, in the Namib Desert. It was his first experience with the round clearings, tens of thousands of which expose the red sandy soil in the area. A short time after the circles form, a tall ring of grass grows around the border, highlighting the bare area.

Few researchers have studied fairy circles, in part because of their remoteness, 111 miles (180 km) from the nearest village. It’s an arid landscape where springbok, ostriches, leopards and other large animals roam, Tschinkel told LIveScience.

"It’s like dying and going to heaven if you like remote, beautiful desert places," he said.

At first glance, Tschinkel assumed the circles marked underground nests of harvester termites. But digs have shown no evidence of termite nests under fairy circles. Other explanations, such as differences in soil nutrients or the death of seedlings by toxic vapors from the ground, have likewise failed to hold up to study.

[...]


Read the full article at: livescience.com






Related Articles
UFO Balls of light (Fairy lights) filmed over crops & crop circles
Getting Past the Worldview of Scientific Materialism: Could Crop Circles Be the Key?
Scientist Claims Crop circles ’created using GPS, lasers and microwaves’
Jaime Maussan - Crop Circles (Video)
Crop Circles: Where Divinity has touched the earth? Lucy Pringle (Video)
Colin Andrews makes us think hard about Crop Circles - Paratopia interview
Godfather Death: Death in Fairy Tales
Strange Weather - Ball Lightning (Video)


Latest News from our Front Page

"Too many white people" in Pittsburgh says government official
2015-07-31 2:14
According to Abby Wilson, the deputy director of the Department of Health’s Bureau of Public Policy and Community Relations in Allegheny County, there are too many White people in Pittsburgh. She left Pittsburgh to work in South Africa and then study in the Netherlands, but now that she’s back, she wants to change it. “My two main gripes (about Pittsburgh) are: too ...
Judge blocks group from releasing more Planned Parenthood videos
2015-07-31 2:35
The pro-life group behind a series of undercover Planned Parenthood videos accused the bioservice firm StemExpress late Wednesday of trying to “cover up this illegal baby parts trade” after the company obtained a court order blocking the release of footage. The Los Angeles Superior Court issued a temporary injunction Tuesday stopping the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any video showing ...
US Fish & Wildlife Service Investigating Killing Of Cecil The Lion
2015-07-31 2:18
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the agency is investigating the killing of Cecil the Lion, saying it will “go where facts lead.” The agency made the announcement via Twitter Thursday. Also Thursday, the Eden Prairie Police Department said that, while they will be stepping up neighborhood monitoring, they will not be providing personal protection for the dentist who killed ...
Dispute over bounced check caused brutal Hollywood shotgun killing: Cops
2015-07-31 2:40
Carrie Melvin, an aspiring Hollywood production assistant, was strolling with her boyfriend not far from Sunset Boulevard on the evening of July 5 when someone murdered her with a shotgun. Police have now arrested a suspect, Ezeoma Obioha, 31, and say his motivation was likely a dispute over a bounced check worth just a few hundred dollars. A Los Angeles ...
California Drought Could Wipe Cities Off Map If Their Water Runs Out
2015-07-31 2:28
The epicenter of California’s drought crisis is in the Central Valley, where there are growing fears the drought could wipe entire towns off of the map. Wells are going dry, jobs are harder to come by and families are already moving, either to different states or even Mexico in search of work. Before visiting Tulare County, a place where wells have gone ...
More News »