Ep. 138: Paleontology & Prototaxites - Mysteries of the Gigantic, Paleozoic Fungus (feat. Dr. Kevin Boyce)

Today on Mushroom Hour we have the privilege of being joined by Dr. Kevin Boyce, Professor of Geological Sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Boyce's research is focused on the biological and environmental impacts of the evolution of plant structure, development, and physiology from the Paleozoic colonization of land through the subsequent radiations of land plant forms up to and including the Cretaceous radiation of flowering plants. This work involves both living and fossil plants and a wide variety of approaches: developmental and physiological investigation, climate modeling, comparative study of morphological diversity, and cell and tissue-specific analysis of elemental, isotopic, and organic chemistry. These tools have been applied to three connected areas of research that each inform wider questions concerning the evolution of terrestrial environments: 1. the evolution of leaf morphology, development, and physiology with feedbacks to climate and primary productivity, 2. the evolution of cell wall biochemistry and its influence on organic matter burial as a sink in the carbon cycle, and 3. the establishment of early terrestrial life and ecosystems encompassing the complete biota including animals, fungi, and microbial communities in addition to the plants. I’m excited to learn about the coevolution of plants and fungi, prototaxites and how we learn about organismal evolution and community assembly from the ancient past.   


  • The Path into Paleontology
  • Geobiology & Defining Geological Eras   
  • Fungal & Plant Fossil Records   
  • Absolute Time & Relative Time   
  • Evolution of Plant Physiology   
  • Coevolution of Plants, Bacteria, Fungi and Animals   
  • Stochastic "Rules" of Community Assembly   
  • Geochemistry   
  • Genetic Tools and Phylogeny Changing Paleontology   
  • Prototaxites   
  • Biochemical Signatures of Heretrophs and Autotrophs   
  • Piecing Together a Paleozoic Landscape    
  • Lifestyle, Physiology and Growth Rate of Prototaxites   
  • Future Work into the Cenozoic   


1 comment

  • Great episode! I don’t understand how they can determine what isotopes of carbon were in fossilized organisms, but I’ll look it up. I would love to hear Dr. Boyce talk about the evolution of stinkhorns, whether their evolution was parallel to flowering plants, since they both use insects to facilitate reproduction. Thanks for putting out this great podcast!

    Jef Taylor

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