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

Congratulations Pussy Porters!
2015-03-26 18:52
Mural paid for by the government, decorates a Swedish school. On International Women’s day Julia Caesar published this chronicle in Swedish on Snaphanen which I’ve translated but prior to reading it I’d like to provide you with some background information on certain terms which are incomprehensible to non-Swedes. First and foremost “pussy porter” and “penis porter” are terms that third-wave feminists in ...
Germanwings co-pilot appears to have crashed plane deliberately – prosecutor
2015-03-26 18:08
The Germanwings co-pilot seemed to have crashed the plane deliberately, killing 150 people on board. The co-pilot wouldn’t let the captain inside the cabin, with the “intension to destroy” the jet, the French prosecutor said at a press conference. Follow RT’s live updates on investigation into Germanwings plane crash The Germanwings co-pilot was identified as Andreas Lubitz. The captain was between 30 ...
Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary
2015-03-25 19:38
The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced. “Hen” will be added to “han” (he) and “hon” (she) as one of 13,000 new words in the latest edition of the Swedish Academy’s SAOL. The pronoun is used to refer to a person without revealing their gender – either because ...
Unchecked government drones? Not over my backyard
2015-03-25 0:27
On last Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration gave Amazon the green light to begin testing drones. While you aren’t likely to be getting your Amazon order delivered by drone anytime soon, as the approval is limited to research and testing, the fact remains that this technology is already part of our lives. Drones are already helping the federal government observe and ...
Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
2015-03-25 0:46
For years, Finland has been the by-word for a successful education system, perched at the top of international league tables for literacy and numeracy. Only far eastern countries such as Singapore and China outperform the Nordic nation in the influential Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings. Politicians and education experts from around the world – including the UK – have ...
More News »