Devil’s Corkscrew From The Badlands Of Nebraska

By  | January 6, 2019 | Filed under: Interesting Facts, News

Daimonelix, 1892, pub domIn 1891, the palaeontologist Erwin Barbour was walking through the White River Badlands to inspect a fossil that had baffled a local rancher.  After being led to the fossil’s location, Barbour found himself just as puzzled. The fossil looked like a two-metre-tall corkscrew of stone, spiralling vertically into the landscape. It was like nothing he had seen before.

What was it? Barbour, head of the Department of Geology at the University of Nebraska, decided the fossil must be the remains of an extinct freshwater sponge, which he named Daemonelix or “Demon’s corkscrew”.

A couple of years later he was forced to rethink his conclusion. Other fossils from the same site did not fit with the idea that an ancient lake once covered the area. Barbour decided that Daemonelix was really the preserved root system of a giant tree. This was also wrong.

The devil corkscrews were not the remains of an extinct organism. They were ancient devilsCorkscrews4burrows that filled up with sand and silt. In 1906, the rodents were identified as beavers that lived at the bottom of their deep, vertical burrows 22 million years ago, venturing above ground to feed on the lush steppes of North America. They were named Palaeocastor, literally meaning “prehistoric beaver”. But they were not the only beavers of prehistory.

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