Long Believed To Be Unique To Africa, Mysterious ‘Fairy Circles’ Appear In Australian Outback

The Namibian desert’s “fairy circles” are one of nature’s greatest mysteries. From above, it almost looks like the ground has suffered a bad case of chicken pox. But up close, you can see the circles for what they really are: patches of barren land surrounded by tufts of grass.

Fairy circles cover swathes of the most inhospitable parts of Namibia’s desert, and for centuries they’ve mystified the local bushmen, the Himba, who believed the circles were either footprints of the gods or the work of an underground, fire-breathing dragon.

Other theories have also been floated over the years by conspiracy theorists, scientists and everyone in between, with the phenomenon being blamed on everything from giants and underground gas; to termites, radiation and aliens.

But for all these musings, an unshakeable explanation has yet to be found.

Until now, that is.

Thanks to an unexpected discovery in — of all places — Australia, thousands of miles away from Namibia’s desert, scientists believe they may have found a plausible answer: the grass, they say, surrounding the circles are “self-organizing,” creating the polka dot pattern in the process.

Mysterious fairy circles have been found in Western Australia. https://t.co/iEUMgunXD3 pic.twitter.com/PqFOg3AS05

— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) March 14, 2016

A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that fairy circles — long believed to be unique to Namibia — have been discovered in the Western Australian outback.

“We couldn’t believe it,” ecologist and study co-author Stephan Getzin told the Smithsonian of the stunning find. “The Namibia fairy circles are supposed to be the only ones in the world.”

Like the Namibian fairy circles, the Australian versions have also cropped up in arid areas. They look very similar, too: —> Read More