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A possible souce for the "fairy circles" in Africa

In temperate climates, "fairy rings" appear in grassy meadows and lawns, and these are caused by fungi, with some rings expanding for hundreds of years. But in the western part of Southern Africa, there are a different sort of "fairy circles," barren circles that are surrounded by long-lived perennial grasses. The Himba people, an ethnic group in northern Namibia, attribute them to original ancestor, Mukuru, or consider them "footprints of the gods," and scientists have been stumped for decades. Professor Norbert Jürgens, from the University of Hamburg, might have finally solved the riddle: a species of termites that are most active at night and don't build big, noticeable nests, have engineered the ecosystem by eating the roots of grasses that grow within the circle, keeping the soil moist for long periods of time. The discussion continues, as some scientists who have studied the phenomena aren't so sure about the theory.
posted by filthy light thief on Mar 29, 2013 - 5 comments

Namibian Fairy Circles

Namibian Fairy Circles "By comparing photos taken over a 4-year period, Walter Tschinkel confirmed something other scientists had suspected: The circles were aliveā€”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 on Jun 28, 2012 - 16 comments

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