The “fairy circles” speckle the landscape like freckles. Arid grasslands all over southwest Africa are covered with the pock marks.
Some measure a few metres. Others span more than 20 metres in diameter.
Almost all have a particularly lush boundary of grass at their edge.
Ideas abound as to their cause.
But real answers are scarce.
For some time, those who regard themselves as being in the know have asserted the barren swirls to be the product of subterranean termite colonies.
These dastardly — but geometrically-minded — beasts supposedly nibble away at the grassroots, causing dieback.
But nobody could cite the source for this explanation.
Another authoritative explanation is that the dead ground is the top of an underground “chimney” carrying poisonous hydrocarbon gases up from deep under the earth. None has yet been detected.
“These so-called fairy circles virtually do extend an open invitation for speculation,” a new report states. “What has led to the formation of these enigmatic structures?
Now, the first detailed analysis of the strange patches of dirt has been completed.
Well, there isn’t one — yet.
“Although scientists have been trying to answer this question for decades their mystery remains as yet unresolved”, states Dr. Stephan Getzin from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig.
The problem: No one has been able to actually observe the formation and growth of a fairy circle.
I hope it's fairies