Lonely Planet Writer

Fairy circles discovered in the Pilbara region of Western Australia

A chance discovery of ‘fairy circles’ in the Pilbara region of Western Australia is helping scientists better understand one of nature’s enduring mysteries.

Pilbara, Australia.
Pilbara, Australia. Image by Robyn Jay / CC BY-SA 2.0

The circles, also found in Namibia in southern Africa, are regularly spaced patches of bare soil that form in uniform hexagonal patterns throughout arid grasslands. Many theories have been put forward on why and how the mysterious patterns form. Fairy circle expert Dr Stephan Getzin from Helmholtz was alerted to the rings 15kms out of Newman in the Pilbara by Australian environmental scientist, Dr Bronwyn Bell. The latest research suggests the plants are organising themselves according to the water availability in the desert.The fairy circle patterns form repeating hexagonal shapes which you can only see from above. Analysis of aerial photographs and spatial patterns of vegetation by the team revealed the Australian and African fairy circles are almost identical, despite being more than 10,000 kilometres apart. Read more: abc.net.au