The Mysterious 'Fairy Circles' In South Africa Finally Explained?

First Posted: Jan 20, 2017 03:40 AM EST

The "Fairy Circles" in Namibia are stunning yet very mysterious. Scientists have been debating on the explanations of the emergence of these circular patches that are about two to 15 meters in diameter on the Namib Desert in South Africa.

Are these somewhat supernatural as some people say they are the footsteps of gods? They appear in the sand and could remain there for 60 years. These sightings could also be seen in Australia.

A new study was conducted to examine what causes these mysterious "fairy circles" to appear on the said desert. The research was printed in the journal of Nature last Wednesday. It was led by researchers from Princeton University.

The team of researchers used computer simulations to come up with an explanation. They said that an intricate combination of animals and plants cooperating and competing help explain the unusual patterns. Corina Tarnita, the lead author of the study, said that it is simple and elegant geometry on such enormous scale.

Phys.Org reports that they come up with two hypotheses. The termites produced the pattern or the plants surrounding it created the circles. Tarnita explained that the giant circles from six to 100 feet in diameter are mostly from termites that cooperate with other in their colony. On the other hand, they compete against other colonies.

 She further explained that the unusual patterns seen between circles are plants that establish an orderly root system so they don't compete too much for limited water. "Out of all these processes, where each is doing what they need to, emerges this large-scale pattern," said Tarnita.

Meanwhile, some experts weren't convinced by the study. They were not comfortable with the team's hypotheses about the rainfall and termite colony lifespans.

Fairy circles are circular rings that appear in the arid grasslands of the Namib desert in the western South African region. According to studies, these circles pass through a life cycle of some 30 to 60 years. They are visible at about 2 meters and will reach about 12 meters in diameter, then, they will mature and die, as they undergo invasion by grasses.

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