Scientists baffled by mysterious 'wormnado'

The 'worm tornado', or 'wormnado'.
The 'worm tornado', or 'wormnado'. Photo credit: Tiffanie Fisher/Facebook

Three years after the sixth - and to date final - Sharknado film, it appears nature is ready for a spinoff series: Wormnado.

A bizarre slimy spiral of earthworms spotted in Hoboken, New Jersey, has scientists scratching their heads.

"Has anyone ever seen anything like this?" Hoboken City Council member Tiffanie Fisher wrote on Facebook, sharing an image sent in by a local. 

"This is a tornado of worms that were out this morning near Maxwell park in Hoboken. Clearly worms come out after it rains but this is something I've never seen!"

Even stranger, the spiral was on concrete - not grass - and despite the cyclonic shape, none appeared to be going anywhere, just wriggling in place. 

"That looks like something out of a horror film," one local told News 12 New Jersey, when shown photos. 

"This tornado shape is really interesting," worm scientist Kyungsoo Yoo of the University of Minnesota told Live Science, saying he'd never seen it before. 

Another suggested it could be a response to the shape of the ground.

"If the water drained that way after flooding, the worms could be following a water gradient," said Georgia Tech geologist Saad Bhamla.

"We've seen them follow trails of water and form all kinds of paths and aggregate structures. These aggregations occur once water leaves." 

Another suggested it could be an early warning sign of a sinkhole forming, while a fourth told News 12 New Jersey they might have gotten lost trying to find their way back into the soil, and followed each other in circles. 

If it was created by the worms themselves, we might never know how they did it. A few hours after the photo was taken, the spiral was gone.

"There were still plenty of worms all over the walls, curb, sidewalk and road. But the bulk of it was gone - I'm not sure where they went," the anonymous woman said.

Local media pointed out the wormnado appeared just days ahead of a full moon known by locals as the 'Worm Moon'.