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filthy light thief (2)

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

Why a calorie is not a calorie

The known knowns, known unknowns, and perhaps even the unknown unknowns of why a calorie is not a calorie.
posted by NortonDC on Aug 27, 2012 - 96 comments

Bowerbirds: intentional architects, and accidental farmers

Bowerbirds, a family of 20 species in eight genera, are a fascinating bunch of birds who range from New Guinea and Australia. Some are flashy, others drab, but all are named for the "bowers" (avenues, huts, or towers of sticks; source) that the males craft and decorate to attract a mate. There are regional styles (PDF) in the design of the bowers, and the male Greater Bowerbirds even employ optical illusions. Some, like the Vogelkop Bowerbird, add mimicry vocal to their repertoire of courting methods. Add accidental cultivation to the list of fascinating features of the bowerbirds. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Apr 26, 2012 - 44 comments

Termite Mounds

Busy Bugs: Termite Mounds vs. the Burj Dubai Tower.
posted by homunculus on Sep 30, 2008 - 34 comments

150m year-old termite eater

Who ate termites first?
Ancient rat-like, mammals.
posted by dfowler on Apr 1, 2005 - 7 comments

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