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Untangling the Devil's Corkscrew

What in the world is this thing? The formations found in the 19th century in Nebraska resembled huge corkscrews, and locals called them the Devil's Corkscrews. Yeah, scientists knew they were fossils of some sort, but what made them: a vine, a tree root, or a worm from an ancient sea bed? Maybe a monster? These things could have been the inspiration for the movie Tremors! But if you looked at the picture and thought "spiral staircase," you'd be on the right track.   

(YouTube link)

With all the different theories, it took decades for scientists to come to an agreement about what made these "Daemonelix." The final bit of evidence that confirmed the theory wasn't discovered until 1977! -via Mental Floss


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Given the final chamber that is slanted upwards, mere silting would not have generated a complete fossilization. My guess (and only a guess) is that abandoned burrows were filled with water that leached minerals along the way. Over time, the water evaporated, more hard water flowed in until the former spaces were filled with mineral deposits.
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I'd love to read about that. I've read that the corkscrews were made of "sand and silt." The difference in that and the existing soil (at the time the corkscrew were formed) doesn't seem to be explained anywhere, but the existing soil at the time could well be hundreds of millions of years older than the sediment that later filled it.
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Interesting. It's not clear to me why the sediment that eventually fills an abandoned burrow would have a different consistency from the surrounding dirt and thus fossilize differently.
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