A team of researchers from Princeton University claim they finally found out what causes those fairy circles in the Namib desert. It turns out that the circles were not caused by any supernatural reasons but the patterns were caused by a combination of animals and plants cooperating and competing for resources.
Previously, there are two commonly accepted reasons for the fairy circles. It was either the colonies of termites or plants surrounding the fairy circles that made it. So the research team ran simulations to determine which one is to be blamed for the circles. First, they built computer models to see how the sand termites eat roots of the plants, which causes dead patches on the surface of the soil, The Guardian reported.
“The termites start with their own mound and go out and forage,” said Corina Tarnita of Princeton. “If they find a smaller colony, they simply kill it and expand their own territory. But if they run into a colony that is about the same size, they cannot do that, and end up with a boundary where there’s permanent conflict, but not a full-blown war.”
However, this does not explain the patterns. So the team then studied how plants in the desert compete for resources. They explain that a plant can supply moisture and shade for plants nearby but it can also take all of the water away, causing problems to distant plants. This competition resulted to the patterns.
When the researchers compared their computer models with what they see in the desert, they found striking similarities. The findings are now published in the Nature journal. “One of the most striking things about nature is that despite the complexity of all of its interactions and the many processes that act simultaneously, sometimes, and more often than we expected, you find these amazing regularities,” said Tarnita, the Guardian reports. “We wanted to know how can these messy things results in so much beauty and order on such enormous scales?”
However, the research team admits that they still cannot explain how every fairy circle forms but their findings might shed light into it. However, other scientists contacted by The Associated Press said they were not convinced by these findings.