2.17.2010

400-Million-Year-Old Mystery

· Giant Tree-like Object in Epoch Before Trees Existed.
http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2010/02/fossil-mystery-giant-treelike-object-in-epoch-before-trees-existed.html
Prototaxites (420-370Ma) - www.dailygalaxy.com
The giant fossil Prototaxites is a big 400-million year old mystery. The fossils resemble tree trunks, and yet they are from a time before trees existed. The stable carbon isotope values are similar to those of fungi, but the fossils do not display structures usually found in fungi. Hence, the enigma.
Prototaxites have sparked controversy for more than a century. Originally classified as a conifer, scientists later argued that it was instead a lichen, various types of algae or a fungus. Whatever it was, it stood in tree-like trunks more than 20 feet tall, making it the largest-known organism on land in its day.
"No matter what argument you put forth, people say, well, that’s crazy. That doesn’t make any sense. 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."
- C. Kevin Boyce, Assistant Professor, Geophysical Sciences, U. of Chicago.
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[Prototaxites Formed from Rolled Liverwort Mats]

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