Giant Sandstone Pillars In New Mexico Have Been Identified As Fossilized Termite Nests

Giant Sandstone Pillars In New Mexico Have Been Identified As Fossilized Termite Nests

For the longest time, geologists have assumed that numerous giant sandstone pillars located in Gallup, New Mexico were fulgurites. Most of you probably have no idea what a “fulgurite” is or what one looks like. Fulgurites are glassy mixtures of sand and rock that form as a result of lighting strikes. However, this assumption was eventually dismissed when an analysis showed that the pillars contain intricate internal tunnels that look like termite tunnels found within a nesting mounds. After further internal examination, scientists quickly concluded that these pillars are ancient termite nests.

The termite nests located in New Mexico are abundant, as more than one hundred of them have been found so far. The fossils are twenty feet high and are more than one hundred and fifty five million years old. This dates these fossilized termite nests back to the Jurassic era. According to a researchers from the University of Boulder, these fossilized termite nests are quite likely the world’s oldest trace fossils. Trace fossils are fossils that show animal-made impressions, such as footprints. The recently discovered fossilized nests are considered trace fossils because they all contain mazes of tunnels left by ancient termites. These tunnel impressions, and other animal-induced fossil impressions, help researchers determine the degree of biodiversity existing at the time the tunnels were made.

Researchers were able to trace the termite nests as far below the ground as one hundred and twenty feet. The fossils were located around tree stumps, further indicating termite activity, as termites feed on the cellulose within wood and plant matter. These fossilized termite nests suggest that termites have been contributing to the degradation of plant matter for the benefit of the environment for a much longer time than previously thought. It turns out that termite life was far more abundant during the jurassic era than many experts have claimed in the past.

Since the termite mounds were at least twenty feet high, do you believe that ancient termites built relatively large nests?

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