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SEM Analysis of Spongiophyton Interpreted as a Fossil Lichen

Wilson A. Taylor, Chris Free, Carolyn Boyce, Rick Helgemo and Jaime Ochoada
International Journal of Plant Sciences
Vol. 165, No. 5 (September 2004), pp. 875-881
DOI: 10.1086/422129
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/422129
Page Count: 7
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SEM Analysis of Spongiophyton Interpreted as a Fossil Lichen
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Abstract

Spongiophyton is an enigmatic Lower to Middle Devonian fossil that has been the subject of much debate since its initial description. The most recent hypothesis based on newly described permineralized material and chemical analysis posits it as the remains of a fossil lichen. Detailed analysis with the SEM is generally supportive of this interpretation. The main structural characteristics include a series of variously sized, embedded linear chains of cells aligned perpendicular to the surface and pores that traverse the entire thicker upper half of the thallus. Aside from a size disparity of the cell chains (wider than that seen in modern lichens), both characteristics are reminiscent of the cortex of a lichen (the medulla having been lost during fossilization) with embedded gelatinized hyphae.

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