By Nicholas St. Fleur
With its bone-dry grasslands and oppressive heat, the middle of the Namib Desert may seem like a strange place to go fishing. Yet there Jennifer Guyton and Tyler Coverdale were, standing in a sea of orange sand and brittle yellow grass with their 30-foot carp pole.
But the two Princeton graduate students weren’t trying to catch some sort of desert-dwelling dogfish or a literal “sand shark.” That would be absurd. Instead, they had swapped the hook with a camera so they could investigate the scenery around something much more scientifically sensible: fairy circles.
That is what scientists call the mysterious bald spots speckled across Namibia’s grasslands. The rings are six feet to 115 feet wide and are regularly spaced out in a hexagon or honeycomb pattern. As their ethereal name would imply, fairy circles have long bewildered researchers as to their origins. But a new study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature that Ms. Guyton and Mr. Coverdale were involved in seeks to offer some insights into how the enchanting landscapes may have formed.
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