The origin of “fairy circles” in the desert of Namibia


Scientists have long wanted to know the origin of the “fairy circles” found in the Namib desert. There are now two answers to this mystery.

There were two teams that discovered the origin of the “fairy circles” that mark almost as a pattern, some regions of the desert of Namibia. These marks have originated several theories, the secret is hidden in two distinct explanations: one of them states that these patterns of circles scattered in the sand are created by termites that move under the ground and clean the vegetation in the area where their nests are constructed, when they bite the soil, the termites make it porous and allow the creation of a reservoir of rainwater to 50 centimeters deep.

The other explanation is that “fairy circles” are the result of a struggle between plants for water: some of them provide shade and keep water near their neighbors, but they harm the farthest because they have very long roots to draw water.

Biologist Corina Tarnita of the University of Princeton involved in the study says that both theories are correct, that is, as the idea that standards are a “battlefield” for water has not yet been tested in the laboratory, and how The theory that they are formed by termites does not explain why “fairy circles” form such a regular pattern, it is more likely that termites are responsible for making larger circles appear on the ground, but that the plants are responsible For creating such regular patterns of small circles between them.

Thus, according to the virtual models created by Corina Tarnita’s team, termites begin by eliminating plants in the circular area around their nests. In this process of destruction, if they find another colony of termite’s inferior to theirs, destroy it and take over the territory, nevertheless, if they find a colony of the same size, they do not fight for the space – they establish borders.

These battles between colonies can create on the ground a pattern similar to that found in honeycombs, with each colony having six other neighbors. However, when the plants above the termite nests compete for water, similar patterns are formed, but with smaller circles in the spaces between the larger “fairy circles”.

Explanation that the one that has been questioned by a part of the scientific community, tells News Scientist. These patterns have also been observed in the desert areas of Australia, Arizona (USA), Brazil, Kenya and also Mozambique. It turns out that in some regions of these countries where “fairy circles” have emerged, no colony of termites lives and, where they exist, they do not show the same behavior. Stephan Getzin, a scientist at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research says, “Of course, if there are fairy circles in the absence of termites, then the termite theory cannot be considered as a strong explanation for the phenomenon”.