Ant Cities from Space

We recently came across this article about an area near the Grand Canyon where you can see circular patches of bare ground in the imagery. The bare patches are believed to be caused by ant nests and so the area has been dubbed the ‘Las Vegas of Ants’.


‘Las Vegas of Ants’, Grand Canyon, Nevada, USA.

Another location that has similar patterns that may be caused by ants is an area in Namibia. There they are known as ‘fairy circles’.


Namib fairy circles.

In Zambia there are large regions that are covered with termite mounds. Although termites look, and behave like ants they are actually more closely related to cockroaches. If you look at the region around Choma, in Southern Zambia, you will notice that all the fields have trees speckled around them, but it is not obvious why from the satellite imagery. However, there is a higher resolution image from the Africa Megaflyover


Termite mounds near Choma, Zambia. According to my sister, a biologist, the termite in question is Macrotermes sp.

Where farmers are using centre-pivot irrigation it is necessary to flatten the termite mounds, but the marks where they were can still be seen in the fields.


Top: a field with uncut trees where the termite mounds are. Centre: uncleared bush with termite mounds showing as lighter patches. Bottom: Circular fields for centre pivot irrigation with termite mounds flattened.

We also came across an area near Choma which has some white dots in the soil that are smaller than the previous termite mounds.


According to my sister, these could be another type of termite (possibly Cubitermes sp.), which makes small grey mounds.


An area near Lochinvar National Park, Zambia. This image was captured during a fire (still burning at the top right) which makes the termite mounds really stand out.

Large termite mounds are common in other countries such as India and Australia. We couldn’t find any that were clearly visible in satellite imagery but we did find this one, known as a cathedral termite mound, in Street View:


A cathedral termite mound, Litchfield Park, Australia

If you look at the satellite view of the area you can just make out some lighter spots in the imagery, which are other cathedral termite mounds and when they are close to the road you can also see them in Street View.

When looking around Namibia we came across some other strange patterns:


Strange patterns that appear to be related to water flow.

We also came across a location in Ethiopia that is featured in Google’s ‘Earth View’ Chrome extension. It also shows dots all over the fields that might be termite mounds but we could not find any ground level photos to confirm it.


Near Tana Lake, Ethiopia

To see all the locations featured in this post in Google Earth download this KML file.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.






PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.

Comments

  1. Amazing!



PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.