Fairy circles in Namibia are assembled from genetically distinct grasses. Journal Article uri icon



  • Fairy circles are striking regularly sized and spaced, bare circles surrounded by Stipagrostis grasses that occur over thousands of square kilometres in Namibia. The mechanisms explaining their origin, shape, persistence and regularity remain controversial. One hypothesis for the formation of vegetation rings is based on the centrifugal expansion of a single individual grass plant, via clonal growth and die-back in the centre. Clonality could explain FC origin, shape and long-term persistence as well as their regularity, if one clone competes with adjacent clones. Here, we show that for virtually all tested fairy circles the periphery is not exclusively made up of genetically identical grasses, but these peripheral grasses belong to more than one unrelated genet. These results do not support a clonal explanation for fairy circles. Lack of clonality implies that a biological reason for their origin, shape and regularity must emerge from competition between near neighbor individuals within each fairy circle. Such lack of clonality also suggests a mismatch between longevity of fairy circles versus their constituent plants. Furthermore, our findings of lack of clonality have implications for some models of spatial patterning of fairy circles that are based on self-organization.

publication date

  • November 20, 2020

has restriction

  • gold

Date in CU Experts

  • February 1, 2021 9:21 AM

Full Author List

  • Kappel C; Illing N; Huu CN; Barger NN; Cramer MD; Lenhard M; Midgley JJ

author count

  • 7

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2399-3642

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 698


  • 3


  • 1