Image: Mary Parrish via MSNBCResearchers say that waaaay back in the Silurian and Devonian periods (350-420 million years ago....you remember those from science class, right?) the world's largest fungus grew to around 26 feet tall--about the size of modern telephone poles. The fungus, called Prototaxites, was about the width of a tree trunk. From MSNBC:
"The above-ground structure -- what actually gets preserved as a fossil -- would have been involved in spore dispersal, like a mushroom," he added. "For that purpose, the higher off the ground you can get, the farther spores will travel on the wind."Kinda cool, let's face it, also kinda creepy!
He and his colleagues first began to suspect Prototaxites was a fungus and not a plant after they analyzed carbon isotopes in its fossils. These remaining carbon atoms can suggest what existing, and once-living, organisms ate. Boyce explained that since plants derive their energy from the sun and its carbon from carbon dioxide in the air, the carbon isotope signatures for plants tend to look the same.