Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

3/30/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Round patches of soil interrupt the arid grassland

Called "fairy circles," barren reddish spots wind their way through a narrow belt of desert stretching from Angola through Namibia into northern South Africa. Lots of folklore has arisen out of the phenomenon. The previously unexplained condition found in Africa is now being ascribed by scientists to a pesky breed of termite.

P. allocerus turns wide desert regions of predominately ephemeral life into landscapes dominated by species-rich perennial grassland supporting uninterrupted perennial life even during dry seasons and drought years.

P. allocerus turns wide desert regions of predominately ephemeral life into landscapes dominated by species-rich perennial grassland supporting uninterrupted perennial life even during dry seasons and drought years.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/30/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Fairy circles, Africa, legend, termites, science, ecology


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Current research may have found a credible explanation for the fairy circles. Scientists say that a particular species of sand termites, called Psammotermes allocerus, a responsible for the phenomenon. 

Scientist Norbert Juergens, a professor of ecology at the University of Hamburg reported that these industrious termites were behind making much of their desert home an oasis of permanent grassland.

Juergens says that these termites "match the beaver with regard to intensity of environmental change, but surpass it with regard to the spatial dimension of their impact.

"P. allocerus turns wide desert regions of predominately ephemeral life into landscapes dominated by species-rich perennial grassland supporting uninterrupted perennial life even during dry seasons and drought years."
 
The reddish barren spots, thousands of them, are called fairy circles, the name itself an invitation to try to solve the mystery of their origins. For no obvious reason, the round patches of sandy soil interrupt the arid grassland, like a spreading blight on the land.

Biologist Walter R. Tschinkel with Florida State University published an analysis of aerial and satellite photography and other research to describe the number, size and dynamics of these formations. Some are as small as six feet in diameter and never grow much bigger, with the largest ones can be at least 40 feet across. It was estimated that the smaller circles have average life spans of 24 years, the larger ones as much as 75 years.

However -- Tschinkel said he was unconvinced that the termites are the cause of the circles. He said the paper by Dr. Juergens "has made the common scientific error of confusing correlation (even very strong correlation) with causation."

Fanciful explanations for the circles in the past have included the native Himba people, who lived in the region, said they were made by their "original ancestor, Mukuru," or the "footprints of the gods." Yet another story blames a mythical dragon that lives in a crack deep under the earth, whose poisonous breath kills vegetation to create the circles.

---


Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.



Comments


More Green

BIOLOGICAL WARFARE? Smog from India, China winds way to U.S., Canada Watch

Image of The smog in Asia, it must be noted is caused by more than just the burning of fossil fuels - it's comprised of nitrogen oxides, methane and other volatile organic compounds that combine to produce ozone.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ripples in the global pond, half a world away, can have effects all over the globe. Researchers at Texas A&M now say that air pollution originating in both India and China, almost certainly affects global weather patterns, particularly in the United States and ... continue reading


MONSTER El Nino forming in South Pacific, will being devastating weather around the globe in 2014-2015 Watch

Image of We may see a sharp increase in severe weather events for 2014-2015.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to scientists, a massive El Nino is forming in the Pacific and it may be the largest such El Nino ever recorded. If true then the entire planet may experience an uptick in extreme weather events with serious consequences for life and property around the ... continue reading


World must turn to wind and solar to combat global warming, report says Watch

Image of Scientists are optimistic that if renewable energy is quickly rolled out, homes are built in a more sustainable and energy efficient way, and human consumption and wastefulness is changed, climate change can be controlled.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The world must turn to the wind or sun for its energy needs -- or face catastrophic consequences wrought by climate change. That's the news from a recent report from the United Nations on global warming. These devastating effects could take place as early as 15 ... continue reading


Former Indonesian tropical paradise reduced to garbage dump Watch

Image of The water at times turns red, green, yellow and black because of the high concentration of dyes.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As people in China's most air polluted cities cheerfully don face masks, a fisherman on Indonesia's Citarum River has blankly accepted his polluted fate. Once searching for fish, Herman, the name of the fisherman proffered to news reporters says he now looks ... continue reading


THIRD Oarfish sighting in Sea of Cortez stokes earthquake fears Watch

Image of A tour guide lies beside a beached oarfish specimen on the Isla San Francisco in Mexico.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An oarfish has been found washed on an island beach in Mexico, leading to speculation if it is one of the two previously sighted and filmed last month, or if it is in fact a third specimen. If it is a third, it could fuel rumors of an earthquake since anecdotal ... continue reading


Japanese island consumes another in unusual volcanic activity Watch

Image of Two volcanic craters are shown on Niijima on November 22. The island emerged about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) south of Tokyo in the Ogasawara Islands, also known as the Bonin Islands.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In a spate of highly unusual volcanic activity, one Japanese island has merged with another nearby island. Niijima Island, a volcano which broke through the ocean's surface last November, has now merged with a nearby island that formed from a volcano which last ... continue reading


Are these oarfish in Mexico predicting an earthquake? Tourists film TWO live oarfish trying to beach themselves Watch

Image of Oarfish are legendary harbingers of earthquakes.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An amazing new video shows two oarfish swimming just offshore in Mexico to the delight of ecotourists on a kayaking tour. The video, taken last March, shows the pair of fish possibly about to beach themselves. Oarfish are rarely sighted and legend associates their ... continue reading


MASS EXTINCTION: All life on Earth went extinct 252 million years ago Watch

Image of The Permian-Triassic extinction has been defined as a natural event that heated up the Earth's biological systems.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Nearly all life on Earth became extinct 252 million years ago. According to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT scientists, the culprit was not an asteroid striking the planet, but a methane-spewing microbe. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Daniel ... continue reading


Bison, elk appear to be fleeing Yellowstone. Is supervolcano eruption eminent? Watch

Image of A supervolcano under Yellowstone could cause mass extinctions if it erupted.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Talk of a supervolcano eruption in Yellowstone National Park has hit the blogosphere after several people have posted videos of animals fleeing the sanctuary. A supervolcano eruption would destroy everything for hundreds of miles around and would plunge the planet into ... continue reading


Global warming is inevitable: It's time for a new ecology. Watch

Image of

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The latest revelation from climate scientists is that they now believe global climate change as a result of human activities is now inevitable and irreversible. Furthermore, it will affect everybody in the years to come-if it hasn't already. It is nigh time for a new ... continue reading


All Green News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 2:14, 22-32
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
1 [In a quiet voice Of David] Protect me, O God, in ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 28:8-15
8 Filled with awe and great joy the women came ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 21st, 2014 Image

St. Anselm
April 21: St. Anselm Archbishop of Canterbury and Confessor APRIL 21,A.D. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter