Mysterious ‘Fairy Circles’ Are Popping up All Over the World

Credits: Dr Stephan Getzin

Fairy circles, characterized by bare soil patterns often encircled by vegetation, have mystified scientists and enthusiasts alike for years. The term was initially coined from similar circles in Europe, typically encompassed by mushrooms.

Although their origins have been a subject of debate, recent research suggests these formations might be more widespread than previously assumed.

While it was traditionally believed that these unique patterns existed solely in the Namib desert and the Australian outback, recent research hints at their presence in potentially 15 nations spanning three continents.

The findings, presented in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), suggest a staggering 263 potential fairy circle locations globally.

However, there’s a catch. The researchers employed artificial intelligence to analyze global satellite imagery, searching for patterns akin to the fairy circles observed in Australia and the Namib desert.

As a result, potential new locations span from Namibia, across the western Sahara desert, to the Horn of Africa in the East, then Madagascar, parts of southwestern Asia, and central Australia.

Exploring varied habitats where these circles occur might illuminate their origins. Previous investigations posited that the Namib desert’s fairy circles stem from the activities of sand termites. Current evidence appears to support this hypothesis.

While alternate theories abound, some even attribute a supernatural cause to these formations, especially the European versions encased by mushrooms. While such notions offer a whimsical perspective, prevailing scientific consensus, for now, points to sand termites as the primary architects of these fascinating natural wonders.