Forget dinosaurs: 420 million years ago, giant mushrooms ruled the earth. That's the conclusion scientists have come to after being puzzled by strange fossilized spires of organic matter for the past 150 years.
The first sample was discovered in Canada in 1859, but no one knew quite what to make of it. Over the years, evidence of the spires kept turning up in paleontological digs across the world. Most scientists seemed happy to conclude they were just odd-shaped trees, but in 2007 a study concluded they were in fact mushroom-like fungi.
According to National Geographic, the ancient organisms "boasted trunks of up to eight metres high and as wide as one metre" – huge by today’s standards. But then again, most things were huge by today’s standards: as io9 explains, evolution tends to make things big, then small.
Still, these ancient mushrooms were the masters of their domain: most trees at the time were just a few feet tall, and your basic, entry-level dinosaur wouldn’t enter the scene for another 100 million years. So next time your thumbing through shitakes at your local supermarket, spare a thought for how the mighty have fallen.