Fairy Circles have been found in Australia! #cool #weirdscience

This is just cool! Smithsonian Mag does a good job summarizing:

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The highly regular spacing of fairy circles in Australia becomes visible in dense vegetation. The grasses in the foreground of the image are patchy as they are rebounding from fire. (Brad Howe, Heliwest Group)

Mysterious Fairy Circles Have Been Found in Western Australia
Once thought to exist only in Namibia, circles spotted 6,200 miles away are helping sort out how these odd features form

smithsonian.com
March 14, 2016
In certain spots, the Namibian plain looks like a scene from a Dr. Seuss book—large, regularly spaced circles dot an otherwise grassy landscape, the red dirt glaring like a beacon against the pale tufts of grass. Guesses about how these bizarre formations came to be range from the practical to the fanciful: underground gas, termites, radiation, dragons and giants.

Whimsically dubbed fairy circles, the strange shapes had only been spotted in Namibia—until now. This week scientists report their appearance roughly 6,200 miles away in the desolate outback of Western Australia. The discovery is already helping scientists tease through the mystery behind these natural patterns.

Scientists from many fields have previously tackled the perplexing question using mathematics, biology, ecology and entomology. Recently the debate has homed in on two theories: Either termites killed rings of plants by munching on their roots, or the grass self-organized to best take advantage of resources in the harsh desert landscape.

The discovery of fairy circles in Australia, described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, now has the team leaning strongly towards the answer of self-organization.

“Water is limited, and because water is limited it cannot sustain a continuous vegetation coverage,” explains lead author Stephan Getzin at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Germany. So “we have gaps and other patterns like labyrinths and stripes or even spots.”

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