Reply to Walsh et al.: Hexagonal patterns of Australian fairy circles develop without correlation to termitaria Academic Article uri icon


  • Bare-soil gaps in arid grasslands often appear in conjunction with termites or ants (1, 2), but should this common correlation (3) automatically infer a causal relationship? To the unfamiliar, it may be difficult to realize that plant populations can organize themselves into geometric order so as to optimize their access to scarce soil water (4–6). Based on the preliminary data obtained by excavating two gaps from the fairy circle (FC) area near Newman, Walsh et al.(7) claim that subterranean termitaria are the sole cause of the Australian FCs (8). This claim is unjustified for several reasons. Although erosion of pavement mounds may lead to local bare-soil gaps, the resulting large-scale pattern is heterogeneous. This pattern has been shown for Drepanotermes harvester termites in the study of Noble et al.(9). Similarly, our mapping of termite nests found aggregated and …

publication date

  • January 1, 2016