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

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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

Plastic in 99 percent of seabirds by 2050

August 31, 2015

Researchers from CSIRO and Imperial College London have assessed how widespread the threat of plastic is for the world's seabirds, including albatrosses, shearwaters and penguins, and found the majority of seabird species ...

Researchers unveil DNA-guided 3-D printing of human tissue

August 31, 2015

A UCSF-led team has developed a technique to build tiny models of human tissues, called organoids, more precisely than ever before using a process that turns human cells into a biological equivalent of LEGO bricks. These ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

0 comments

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.