Are these the remains of ancient worm holes?

Here's a weird, great geological feature I spotted yesterday while out hiking in rural Oklahoma. We were out in a flat, flat plan that was dotted with a few tall, angular sandstone mounds and narrow sandstone canyons carved out by erosion. This rock was sticking out of the side of one of the mounds. It was the only place we saw anything like these vertical, tube-like structures, which stretched from the ground up to probably about my shoulder.

When I posted this image on Twitter yesterday, several people suggested that the tubes might be skolithos — tube-shaped fossils that were probably made by some kind of ancient worm creature and turn up sometimes in sandstones. While the pictures on Wikipedia don't look very similar to what I saw, there are apparently lots of different forms these things (and similar tube fossils) can take.


  1. no no no, ancient wormholes are hidden underneath the pyramids where the ancient aliens put them. it was on the history channel, so I know it’s true.

  2. Perhaps fossilised bamboo or some similar plant?  Just throwing it out there because the tubes look about the right thickness and it always grows in clusters.

    1. Agreed.    Now I’m so disappointed.

      And to double the disappointment, when I realized it was actual worms, for a brief, impossible moment, I was hoping it was the Sandworms of Arrakis. 

    2. Yeah, I was looking at the picture, wondering how on earth they would know the rock had been hit by a worm hole. And how cool it would be if it was true!!!! … and then I realized it wasn’t that kind of worm hole.

      Still cool, but…

  3. I am not a geologist! But the fact that they’re vertical suggests to me something like a persistent water boring down through the matrix rock, then re-sedimenting later to form columns of slightly harder material, now exposed.

    1. IANAG, IANYG! That being said, I have a borderline-sober geologist on hand, and he says that if it’s vertical, chances are it’s just the result of water doing its erosive thing.

        1. Don’t despair! Geologist now moderately ebriate and regaling us with Heart-of-Darkness-style anecdotes. Am confident suitable interpretation on cards if image re-presented post-digestif.

  4. Note: scientific pix ALWAYS need a scale reference, like a rock hammer or for us lucky Canuks the eponymous Loonie coin. That said, the orientation and guesstimated size make me think fossilised tree trunk casts, similar to those seen in situ at Joggins, Nova Scotia ( recent UNESCO site, fossilised Carboniferous age forest ). The original buried tree trunks are long gone, but the space was filled in by later sediments which lithified in place. Well spotted.

  5. the segments make me think that they are the stalks of a Crinozoa of some sort.i have several i picked up out of the sandstone in the Mississippi valley that look somewhat like that but smaller,baseball bat size.

  6. Obviously a fossilized balustrade.  You can just make out the stair treads and a landing.  I wonder what’s at the bottom of the staircase?

  7. I’m guessing burrows are the best answer, as skolithos are a blanket term for worm and shrimp burrows. They may be more recognizable because of water erosion accenting the fossil burrows. Do you know what geologic time the rocks are a part of? The red sand may be because of iron staining due to water reacting with the elements in the sandstone, or the sandstone could be k-spar rich, or a million other explanations. In the end, whoever asked for some kind of scale is the most correct answer. You truly know you are a geologist when you have more photos of your hammer than of your loved ones. I’m so happy I could share this useless post.

  8. I personally have a ton of worm burrow casts from Missouri near Lees Summit. There is this one cut into the side of the road that just has a ton of these cylindrical casts.

  9.  I don’t know anything about Oklahoma’s fossils or geology but there’s an impression on the left of the rock that gets larger as it goes down. Sort of looks like a rock-boring clam hole

  10. I’m thinking those are fossilized Pine trees (or any other type of tree that grows tall and straight with few branches except at the top).

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