When giant mushrooms ruled the Earth….
Life was simpler in 400,000,000 BC…
I’m going to take a break from controversial subjects and post some nice innocuous science and cat blogs. The state of the world is way too depressing lately and I need to recharge my batteries before wading back into the fray. On the plus side, posting about controversial subjects is driving my blog traffic up, I’m getting two hundred hits a day. Yes, I might be pissing off and offending a thousand people or more a week now. Who knew the Internet could be so satisfying? I’m also hoping that maybe I’m encouraging one or two people to think occasionally, God knows writing this blog has forced me to re-examine many of my beliefs.
So moving right along, Prototaxites! A topic so exciting that a Google search reveals almost 800 links! (Yes, I’m being facetious, Michael Jackson’s gall bladder has more web sites devoted to it.) What the hell is a Prototaxite? Good question! It’s a six metre tall stalk of something that existed in great numbers on land some 350 million to 420 million years ago. Was it a conifer tree? A tall algae colony? Giant mushrooms? Lichen gone wild? Scientists have been arguing about these mystery fossils for a century.
Well, the mystery appears to have solved, or so is scientist Francis Heuber’s well researched claim. Prototaxites (remind me to blog about scientists and their lame names sometimes, Prototaxite sounds like some sort of male inflammatory disease) appear to have been giant fungi. It was quite an era. Forests of giant fungi. Small primitive plants, in fact the early plants didn’t even have roots or leaves. A landscape littered with living rootless plant stems, it sure would have made weeding the yard easy. As for how a stemless, rootless plant reproduced, beats me.
The seas were teaming with life then. Giant armour-plated, bone-crushing fish and huge man eating water scorpions. Wading was not recommended. On land however there were just millipedes, bugs, and primitive wingless insects. There have always been insects, it’s one of their many superpowers. More on that later. For now I am imagining slices of Prototaxite frying in butter, like big Chanterelle steaks. Hmm, tasty. I wonder if there is a Chanterelle crop in the hills this spring? I’ll check that out later this morning.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and if giant fungi ruling the earth isn’t an historically important image…I don’t know what is. Illustration credit: Elsevier/Hueber.)