Namibian Fairy Circles

No one knows what creates the thousands of fairy circles dotting southern Africa, but we now know that after mysteriously springing up, they live for approximately 41 years. Via ScienceNOW:

Tens of thousands of the formations—bare patches of soil, 2 to 12 meters in diameter—freckle grasslands from southern Angola to northern South Africa, their perimeters often marked by a tall fringe of grass. Locals say they’re the footprints of the gods. Scientists have thrown their hands up in the air. But now Walter  Tschinkel, a biologist at Florida State University, has discovered something no one else has.

By comparing photos taken over a 4-year period, he confirmed something other scientists had suspected: The circles were alive—or at least they were dynamic. A number of circles appeared and disappeared over this time period. Extrapolating from the data, Tschinkel calculated that most smaller circles arise and vanish every 24 years, whereas larger circles last up to 75 years. Overall, the lifespan averaged 41 years.

7 Comments on "Namibian Fairy Circles"

  1. Namibia is famous for the most unusual flora.  The wellwitchia for example.  perhaps a cosmic ray blob from our sun in the past?  An Oak Ridge scientist has confirmed that a set of crop circles were actually transmuted elemets by analysis of radioactive material.  Since the magnetosphere is being slammed more often by heavier solar ammunition, is it possible that the monthly increase since March 2012 is doubling? 

  2. I’m something of an amateur mycologist (heavy stress on the amateur).

    Off the cuff I’d speculate that the phenomena is cause by some sort of mycelium.  Even the name hints at such. “Fairy Rings” are rings of mushrooms (located at the resource frontier of an outward growing body of mycelium)  that tend to grow larger over time. Here we have something called a “Fairy Circle”.

    “Fairy Rings” commonly kill the grass or vegetation found inside the ring, as many annoyed homeowners and landscapers can attest.

    The timing of the Circles’ onset as occurring just after heavy rains is also consistent with the hypothesis that the defoliated spots are caused by a fungus.

    There are some other ways in which a fungal origin hypothesis fits, but I suspect I’ve already ruined the fun enough.

    Anyhow, interesting.

    • there are destructive mycelium I’m sure
      but my conjecture in this case would be that
      it’s due to the vegetative monoculture situation
      it could be a natural process of letting monoculture areas
      lie fallow for a period of time
      allowing the soil to rebuild its nutrient base from the animal compost

      given that it is a monoculture environment
      and partly desert
      20 to 40 years doesn’t seem unreasonable for a natural process

      it’s either that or retarded crop circles


  4. biggest pet spots ever. This would be a great place to test those lawn rejuvenating seeds we see in late night infomercials 

  5. Consider ants.  We have 10 meter diameter bare rings in the Nevada scrub desert.  Similar story they change over time.  The ant’s pic everything bare with some grass species favored at the edge fo the ring.

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