Friday, March 29, 2013

Mystery of Desert 'Fairy Circles' Solved, Creators Found

Here, numerous tracks of Oryx antelopes crossing fairy circles in an interdune pan, shown in this aerial view of Namibrand, Namibia.

 

The "artists" behind bizarre, barren, grassless rings dotting the desert of Southwest Africa have been found lurking right at scientists' feet: termites.

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.

Scientists have offered many ideas about the circles' origin, ranging from "self-organizing vegetation dynamics" to carnivorous ants. Termites have been proposed before, but there wasn't much evidence to support that theory.

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/28268-fairy-circle-mystery-solved.html

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