Life cycles of mysterious Namibian grassland 'fairy circles' characterized

June 27, 2012
This is a newly formed fairy circle. Credit: Tschinkel WR (2012) The Life Cycle and Life Span of Namibian Fairy Circles. PLoS ONE 7(6): e38056. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038056

The grasslands in Namibia are home to so-called "fairy circles" - circular bare spots, usually surrounded by a ring of taller grass – of unknown origin. These circles are described and characterized in a report published June 27 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

The author, Walter Tschinkel of Florida State University, showed that the circles are not permanent, and go through a birth, maturation, and death process. The life spans appear to range from 24 to 75 years, and smaller circles were generally shorter-lived than larger ones. The ultimate cause, however, remains unknown.

"The fact that fairy circles are born, mature and die, brings the dynamic nature of this mysterious ecological phenomenon into focus." Tschinkel explains. "Until now, their long life spans made it hard to detect that they are not permanent features."

Explore further: How the brain's architecture makes our view of the world unique

More information: Tschinkel WR (2012) The Life Cycle and Life Span of Namibian Fairy Circles. PLoS ONE 7(6): e38056. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038056

Related Stories

Physics could be behind the secrets of crop-circle artists

August 1, 2011

In this month's edition of Physics World, Richard Taylor, director of the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon, takes a serious, objective look at a topic that critics might claim is beyond scientific understanding ...

Abuse from other universes -- a second opinion

October 10, 2011

At the end of last year, there was a flurry of activity from astronomers Gurzadyan and Penrose that considered the evidence of alternate universes or the existence of a universe prior to the Big Bang and suggested that such ...

New type of extra-chromosomal DNA discovered

March 9, 2012

( -- A team of scientists from the University of Virginia and University of North Carolina in the US have discovered a previously unidentified type of small circular DNA molecule occurring outside the chromosomes ...

Recommended for you

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Which came first—the sponge or the comb jelly?

December 1, 2015

Bristol study reaffirms classical view of early animal evolution. Whether sponges or comb jellies (also known as sea gooseberries) represent the oldest extant animal phylum is of crucial importance to our understanding of ...

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.