Tall fungus puzzles scientists

Mysterious fossil shares similarities with modern-day fungi, scientists say

Scientists are wrapping their heads around new evidence that shows that a mysterious, 26-foot-tall telephone-pole-shaped fossil may be that of the world’s tallest fungus, according to Discovery News.

The ancient fungus, known as Prototaxites, lived between 350 and 420 million years ago during the Silurian and Devonian eras.

Experts have been studying the fungus-fossil specimen and debating over its classification for decades, with some scientists believing it was a plant or algae. A recent study published by the Royal Society B presents compelling evidence that the species may actually be a fungus that derived its nutrients from bacteria, algae and moss.

Unlike modern species of fungus, it appears that Prototaxites formed large trunks with small branches, causing them to look like telephone poles, said Kevin Boyce, a co-author of the study. However, like modern fungi, the organism likely got its food from an underground network of threadlike structures. The organism’s above-ground structure—the part that was fossilized—likely spread spores in the same ways as modern fungi.