This 2014 video is called Eight Meter Mushrooms and Other Fungi of the Devonian.
Prehistoric Mystery Organism a Humongous Fungus
By Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience
posted: 23 April 2007
A giant mystery organism more than 350 million years old has finally been identified as a humongous fungus.
The giant was the largest-known organism of its day, living in a time when wingless insects, millipedes, worms and other creepy-crawlies dominated, as backboned animals had not yet evolved out of the oceans.
“That world was a very strange place,” said researcher C. Kevin Boyce, a University of Chicago paleobotanist.
Prototaxites has generated controversy for more than a century.
“No matter what argument you put forth, people say, well, that’s crazy.
That doesn’t make any sense,” Boyce said. “A 20-foot-tall fungus doesn’t make any sense.
Neither does a 20-foot-tall algae make any sense, but here’s the fossil.”
Simple vascular plants, the ancestors of the familiar conifers, ferns and flowering plants of today, had established themselves on land 40 million years before the appearance of Prototaxites, but the tallest among them stood no more than a couple feet high.
“Initially, they’re just stems,” Boyce said. “They don’t have roots. They don’t have leaves. They don’t have anything like that.”
On the inside, Prototaxites is clearly not a plant, composed as it is of interwoven tubes just five to 50 microns across (50 microns is about half the width of a human hair).
“With that anatomy, it suggests lichens, fungi or algae,” Boyce told LiveScience.
Paleobiologist Francis Hueber of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., recently revived the notion that the puzzling organism was a fungus.
He ventured to Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia to collect specimens of Prototaxites, tediously slicing them into hundreds of thin sections and taking thousands of images of them through microscopes to determine identity.
“He built up a convincing case based on the internal structure of the beast that it was a giant fungus, but agonized over the fact that he was never able to find a smoking gun in the form of reproductive structures that would convince the world that it was indeed a fungus,” said paleobiologist researcher Carol Hotton, also of the National Museum of Natural History.
Now chemical analyses have revealed that Prototaxites was not a plant, and was likely a fungus, findings detailed in the May issue of the journal Geology.
Hueber, Boyce, Hotton and their colleagues analyzed carbon isotopes in Prototaxites and plants that lived in the same environment approximately 400 million years ago.
Isotopes of an element all have the same number of protons in their atomic nuclei but different amounts of neutrons.
Invasive Fungi Wreak Havoc on Species World-Wide [Slide Show]: here.
Gilboa fossil trees: here.
Radiation eating fungi: here.
- Mushrooms are more closely related to animals than to plants. (wisegeek.com)
- 5 Types of Fungus in Capri Sun – But Are They Harmful? (livescience.com)
- Disputed Dino Fossils Formally Returned to Mongolia (livescience.com)
- 15 of the Most Fascinating Looking Fungi in the World (twistedsifter.com)