Monday, April 23, 2007
Prototaxites a fungus? Who can tell without Open Access?
Prototaxites is believed to have been the largest land organism in the Devonian period, leaving behind tree-trunk sized fossils that have stumped geologists for the 150 years since their discovery. What exactly was it? Traditionally, it was assumed to be an ancient brown algae, largely from analogy with modern giant aquatic brown algae. However, according to a recent news article Francis Hueber and colleagues have just published a paper that gives convincing evidence that it was in fact a giant fungus. An interesting idea -- but unless your institution subscribes to the journal "Geology", you can't read the actual paper to decide for yourself. It's particularly sad that this is the case because the journal isn't published by a commercial company that would be expected to put profit before science, but by a non-profit society that supposedly stands for "Fostering the human quest for understanding Earth, planets, and life". Limiting access to papers seems to be in direct conflict with their stated mission.