Across the arid grasslands of the Namib Desert lies an eerie sight: millions of circular patches of land void of plants, each between 2m and 15m in diameter, arranged in a honeycomb-like pattern across 2,500km of land. These disks of bare soil, known as fairy circles, pockmark the landscape in Namibia, as if giant moths ate through the vast carpets of grassland.
Scientists have suggested radioactive soil, or that toxins released from plants kills the vegetation in circular patterns. Others believe the circles are the work of sand termites. To store water, they burrow in the soil in ring-like patterns and consume the roots of vegetation to allow underlying grains of sand to absorb falling rain.
Another hypothesis ascribes the circles to competition for resources. In harsh landscapes, plants compete for water and nutrients. As weaker plants die and stronger ones grow, vegetation “self-organizes” into unusual patterns.
Considering the eerie beauty of these phenomena, perhaps the most fitting theory is that of local bushmen, who say fairy circles are nothing less than the footprints of gods.