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Devonian landscape heterogeneity recorded by a giant fungus

C. Kevin Boyce, Carol L. Hotton, Marilyn L. Fogel, George D. Cody, Robert M. Hazen, Andrew H. Knoll and Francis M. Hueber
Devonian landscape heterogeneity recorded by a giant fungus
Geology (Boulder) (May 2007) 35 (5): 399-402


The enigmatic Paleozoic fossil Prototaxites Dawson 1859 consists of tree-like trunks as long as 8 m constructed of interwoven tubes <50 mm in diameter. Prototaxites specimens from five localities differ from contemporaneous vascular plants by exhibiting a carbon isotopic range, within and between localities, of as much as 13 per mil delta (super 13) C. Pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry highlights compositional differences between Prototaxites and co-occurring plant fossils and supports interpretation of isotopic distinctions as biological rather than diagenetic in origin. Such a large isotopic range is difficult to reconcile with an autotrophic metabolism, suggesting instead that, consistent with anatomy-based interpretation as a fungus, Prototaxites was a heterotroph that lived on isotopically heterogeneous substrates. Light isotopic values of Prototaxites approximate those of vascular plants from the same localities; in contrast, heavy extremes seen in the Lower Devonian appear to reflect consumption of primary producers with carbon-concentrating mechanisms, such as cryptobiotic soil crusts, or possibly bryophytes. Prototaxites biogeochemistry thus suggests that a biologically heterogeneous mosaic of primary producers characterized land surfaces well into the vascular plant era.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 35
Serial Issue: 5
Title: Devonian landscape heterogeneity recorded by a giant fungus
Affiliation: University of Chicago, Department of the Geophysical Sciences, Chicago, IL, United States
Pages: 399-402
Published: 200705
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 41
Accession Number: 2007-045049
Categories: Paleobotany
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: With GSA Data Repository Item 2007096
Illustration Description: illus.
N47°49'60" - N49°15'00", W68°00'00" - W64°15'00"
Secondary Affiliation: National Museum of Natural History, USA, United StatesCarnegie Institution of Washington, USA, United StatesHarvard University, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 200724
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