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: Abuse from other universes -- a second opinion

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

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 ...

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 ...

Seeing isn't believing

September 7, 2011

Pay attention! It's a universal warning, which implies that keeping close watch helps us perceive the world more accurately. But a new study by Yale University cognitive psychologists Brandon Liverence and Brian Scholl finds ...

What the brain sees after the eye stops looking

November 8, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- When we gaze at a shape and then the shape disappears, a strange thing happens: We see an afterimage in the complementary color. Now a Japanese study has observed for the first time an equally strange ...

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

How Frankenstein saved humankind from probable extinction

October 28, 2016

Frankenstein as we know him, the grotesque monster that was created through a weird science experiment, is actually a nameless Creature created by scientist Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, "Frankenstein." ...

Closer look reveals tubule structure of endoplasmic reticulum

October 28, 2016

(—A team of researchers from the U.S. and the U.K. has used high-resolution imaging techniques to get a closer look at the endoplasmic reticulum (ET), a cellular organelle, and in so doing, has found that its structure ...

Computer model is 'crystal ball' for E. coli bacteria

October 28, 2016

It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, and even more so when they involve the reactions of living cells—huge numbers of genes, proteins and enzymes, embedded in complex pathways and feedback loops. ...


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.