There are a number of hypotheses about how these enigmatic patterns in arid areas may have formed.
One hypothesis is that ants or insects nibbled away at the plants' roots.
Another hypothesis suggests the circles are caused by underground bubbles of carbon monoxide rising to the surface.
But researchers said the latest study indicated the fairy circles in the Pilbara were formed by plants organizing themselves in response to scarce water resources.
An analysis of the temperature and permeability of the soil indicated that water flowed across the hard-baked patches of soil to where spinifex grasses grew at the edge.
"Our soil analysis revealed that there are strong infiltration contrasts between vegetation areas and bare soil gaps [with hard soil crusts]," Dr. Getzin said.
The vegetation kept the surface cooler and soil looser at the edge of the circle, so water could permeate further and more plants could colonize the area.
Spatial mapping of the area by Dr. Getzin and his team ruled out insect activity.
Unlike Namibia, where a number of species of insects are found in fairy circles, the majority of fairy circles in the Pilbara did not have any ant nests or termite mounds. Any nests and mounds they did find were randomly distributed.
"That rules out ant or insect activity as the driving pattern, because the ant hills and termite mounds are irregular while fairy circles are extremely regular," Dr. Erickson said.
Dr Getzin said the results supported current thinking in dryland ecological research.
"Ecologists are increasingly realizing that distinct vegetation patterns are a population-level consequence of competition for scarce water," he said.
Dr. Getzin said it was exciting to discover a new and mysterious natural phenomena, like fairy circles.
"Today, scientists mostly find very small animals such as a new insect or amphibian species in the rainforest, cryptic deep-sea animals, or new galaxies in outer space," he said.
"Discoveries like the Australian fairy circles are extremely rare, which makes the current study tremendously exciting."
Dr. Getzin added the area around Newman seemed to be an ideal place for such finds.
"Just 35 kilometres north of Newman a previously unknown meteorite crater (the Hickman crater) was identified using Google Earth in 2007," he said.
"This illustrates the great potential of the remote Australian outback for new discoveries."
Article first appeared on ABC Science Online.