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Namibian Fairy Circles
June 28, 2012 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Namibian Fairy Circles "By comparing photos taken over a 4-year period, Walter Tschinkel confirmed something other scientists had suspected: The circles were alive—or at least they were dynamic. A number of circles appeared and disappeared over this time period. Extrapolating from the data, Tschinkel calculated that most smaller circles arise and vanish every 24 years, whereas larger circles last up to 75 years. Overall, the lifespan averaged 41 years."
posted by dhruva (16 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had assumed that fairy circles were underground fungi putting up stalks at those places where spores would travel furthest, i.e., the furthest places they can reach.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:55 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


The government says it's due to poor farming. But I know what's really going on, Stuart.
posted by rocket88 at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


These are pretty neat, and remind me a lot of Fairy Rings, which sometimes result in dead areas. If I were a mycologist in Namibia, I'd go looking for Mycelium beneath one of these.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2012


They form after the rainy season? Fungus, or some underground bacterial growth. They grow from a spot to a disk, killing the grass. Insects would leave a more irregular mark.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:00 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fascinating! I love that there are still things - large and obvious things, even - that we don't really have a perfect answer for yet. It's a neat little mystery, and one I knew nothing about before today. Thanks, dhruva!
posted by harujion at 9:00 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks. Very interesting.
posted by Jehan at 9:08 AM on June 28, 2012


So this is a story about comparing images but they didn't post the images compared?
posted by DU at 9:10 AM on June 28, 2012


Pixies, or it didn't happen.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:21 AM on June 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


Here's a link to the paper (It was missing when I posted this)
posted by dhruva at 9:29 AM on June 28, 2012


In an old, old Scientific American article I read that Salisbury plain, the location of Stonehenge, hosts many fairy rings, some of them centuries old, judging by their growth rates.

And they do tend to pop out mushrooms-- their fruiting bodies-- on a lunar cycle (in the dark of the moon to evade moths?).
posted by jamjam at 9:51 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a great paper and this is a fascinating mystery I'd never heard about before—thanks! I really hope I can visit Namibia at some point. I just keep hearing more and more interesting things about it.
posted by daisyk at 1:12 PM on June 28, 2012


If you take a young child and kill it (hey - not that I'm saying you should, that'd be bad. unless you are bad, then there's not much stopping you, is there?) in a fairy ring, it'll open a black road from the Courts of Chaos to the foot of Kolvir in Amber and things pretty much go pear-shaped from there. Lots of violence means lots of work if you're a bard, but otherwise it equals a shortened life expectancy.
So DON'T.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:32 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Agreeing with Logical Dash - always thought FC's were from fungus. Sounds like the giant fungus they found in Michigan (and then Washington) - scientists didn't know there was a fungus there until they checked the trees dying or something.

Seems here to grass is dying, and doesn't grow back for the years listed.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 3:54 PM on June 28, 2012


Fascinating. When I was in Namibia a couple of years ago, our guide told us it was the result of old sites of Euphorbia growth - an extremely toxic plant that tends to poison the earth around it somewhat like camphor laurels do.

I accepted it unquestioningly at the time, but if they're growing and appearing/disappearing like that, clearly that's not the case.
posted by smoke at 6:59 PM on June 28, 2012


Toekneesan: These are pretty neat, and remind me a lot of Fairy Rings, which sometimes result in dead areas. If I were a mycologist in Namibia, I'd go looking for Mycelium beneath one of these.
So much so that I don't understand why this wasn't an early thought for the scientists.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:39 AM on June 29, 2012


When I was in Namibia a couple of years ago, our guide told us it was the result of old sites of Euphorbia growth - an extremely toxic plant that tends to poison the earth around it somewhat like camphor laurels do.

Euphorbia sap doesn't kill plants in my experience. It will however kill your plans if you get some on you.
posted by srboisvert at 6:19 PM on June 29, 2012


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