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Scientists find fairy circles not caused by aliens, maybe

Image credit: N. Juergens

Mysterious rings on the floor of the Namib Desert in southern Africa have baffled scientists for years. But based on new research, scientists at the University of Hamburg think they have identified what creates this strange phenomenon.

LiveScience explains that these “fairy circles,” as they are known, appear in regular patterns and they can last for decades. Although these bizarre circles are a bit crop circle-ish, biologist Norbert Juergens of the University of Hamburg thinks that termites, rather than aliens create the circles.

Sand termites. (Credit: N. Juergens/Science)
Sand termites. (Credit: N. Juergens/Science)

While studying the fairy circles, Dr. Juergens found the circles contain sand termites. Nature World News further explains that Dr. Juergens determined the circles contain “other telltale signs of the insect, including foraged plant material and underground tunnels, signaling that they were not just visiting when Juergens saw them.”

Dr. Juergens’ study was published in the journal Science.

Chemist Yvette Naude of the University of Pretoria, South Africa did not participate in Dr. Juergens’ study, but she told LiveScience that the study “is a useful addition to debating the origin of the fairy circles.” But she goes on to state that the study “does not address the key question as to what is the primary factor that causes sudden plant mortality, i.e. the birth of a fairy circle.” LiveScience suggests, “It is possible the termites don’t cause the fairy circles, but merely live in them.”

So although this new study supports the theory that fairy circles are caused by termites, questions remain, and a conclusive explanation has yet to be made.

Jason McClellan

Jason McClellan is a UFO journalist and the producer/co-host of the web series Spacing Out! He is also the web content manager and staff writer for OpenMinds.tv, and a co-organizer and technical producer of the International UFO Congress. As a founding member of Open Minds, Jason served as a writer and editor for the now defunct Open Minds magazine. He has appeared on Syfy, NatGeo, and, most recently, he co-starred on H2's Hangar 1: The UFO Files. ------ Follow Jason on Twitter @acecentric and subscribe to Jason's updates on Facebook.

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