Animal behavior can often help explain the origin of popular myths and mysteries. Fairy circles, for example, have long puzzled onlookers. These are striking circular patches of perennial grasses with a barren center, which grow in the desert on the southwest coast of Africa. Biologist Norbert Juergens of the University of Hamburg and his colleagues, in a Science paper, explained how termite feeding and natural rainwater storage produce the grass circles.
According to the researchers, termites feed on the grass roots, preventing growth. Rainwater, however, later stores in the sandy soil depths around the rim of the feeding, which allows some grass to survive.
Of course, new theories forever pop up to challenge existing ones. Only recently, new research has mounted a challenge to the termite theory.