Fairy Circles Update

Fairy Circles

Termite “Fairy Circles”, Namibrand, Namibia

In 2013, Norbert Juergens published his answer to the mystery of the fairy circles in the desert of Namibia: The sand termite, Psammotermes allocerus. Other researchers have questioned his conclusion and continue to offer alternative explanations. A group of scientists* have expanded on Juergens study with a 3 year period of tracking the growth and development of fairy circles. They found sand termite nests at the center of all new and young circles. Laboratory studies show that the sand termites feed on the roots of grasses close to their nest and kill the plants. When the circle expands, termites move from their central nest to the periphery, closer to good forage. Killing the grasses in the center of the circle reduces the seed population and slows the process of recolonization of the circle. This study is stronger support for sand termites as the causitive agents and clarifies the process of circle formation.

*Herbivory by subterranean termite colonies and the development of fairy circles in SW Namibia. 2015. KELLY VLIEGHE, MIKE PICKER, VERE ROSS-GILLESPIE and BIRGIT ERNI. Ecological Entomology. 40:42–49.
DOI: 10.1111/een.12157

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fairy Circles Update

  1. Male Energy says:

    How many termites consist of one population?

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