(→Morphology: remove self-published source (claim is unlikely to be challenged))
Shatter cones have a distinctively conical shape that radiates from the top (''apex'') of the cones repeating cone-on-cone in large and small scales in the same sample. Sometimes they have more of a spoon shape on the side of a larger cone.<ref name=Sagy2004/> In finer-grained rocks such as [[limestone]], they form an easily recognizable "horsetail" pattern with thin grooves (''[[wikt:stria|striae]]''). However, the word "striae" should not be used to describe shatter cones, as that is considered misleading.
Coarser grained rocks tend to yield less well developed shatter cones, which may be difficult to distinguish from other geological formations such as [[slickensides]]. Geologists have various theories of what causes shatter cones to form, including compression by the wave as it passes through the rock or tension as the rocks rebound after the pressure subsides. The result is large and small branching fractures throughout the rocks.<ref name=French1998/><ref name=Sagy2004/><ref name=IFSG2005/>