Science: Corkscrew Mystery Uncorked

For one of geology's oddest puzzles an odd solution was last week suggested. The puzzle was the origin of "devil's corkscrews," which are fossils six to eight feet high, spiral in shape, with whorls eight inches to three feet in diameter. Buried vertically, they are found in Nebraska's Sioux County in Miocene deposits 15-to 30,000,000 years old. Moreover, fossil beavers have been found in several of the fossil corkscrews, in which microscopic study shows an abundance of petrified plant cells. So two theories arose:

1) the corkscrews are petrified liana (woody, rope-like) vines which twisted naturally in ancient tropical Nebraska;

2) the corkscrews...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!