Fairy Circles

The hard science behind Australia's whimsical Fairy Circles'

In the arid Australian outback, nature forms perfect circles of grass, called Fairy Circles.

Stephan Getzin


Not to be mistaken for the mushroom "Fairy Rings" of the forest.

Scientists wondered why grasses would grow in such perfect circles, so they set out to investigate the mystery using drones and computer mapping.

Heritage Images/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It turns out, the circular pattern can be explained by a theory of pattern-formation called "reaction diffusion mechanism," coined by British mathematician Alan Turing.


The whimsical circles also provide more than just an aesthetic — the grasses have actually engineered an ecosystem-beneficial structure.

The circles of grass provide shade and act as an important source of water for other plants and animals in the harsh, dry environment.

Thorsten Becker


"Without the self-organization of the grasses, this area would likely become desert, dominated by bare soil," said the paper's lead author Stephan Getzin.

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