Fungi are susceptible to the environment in which they live, and the chance to find fungi fossils is scarce. The recent discovery of a new fossil has changed what researchers think about fungi once again, as the earliest signs of fungi existence date back to at least 500 million years before the current estimations.
Previously, the oldest fungal fossils where up to 450 million years ago, within the same period during which plants started to move from sea to land. Some of these ancient fungi were quite impressive. For example, the Prototaxites reached a height of up to the eight meters, a trait which led some researchers to believe that it was a tree mistakenly.
Some experiments which involved the use of DNA-based methods inferred that fungi may have a bit a lot older, ranging from 760 million to 1.06 billion years ago. The new fossil, recovered from the Arctic Canadian shales, contains hyphae and spores fills the gaps in the timeframe and suggest that fungi may have lived on the land well before plants.
Ancient fungi may have played a significant role in the evolution of complex life on Earth
It is thought that the rocks in which the fossil was found used to be a part of a shallow-water estuary. This type of environment is excellent for fungi since the water is filled with nutrients and a large amount of organic matter tends to accumulate, serving as a reliable food source.
The researchers cannot determine if the fungi were carried along with sediments from the land or if it lived within the premise of the estuary. Analysis proved that they shared a large number of traits with modern terrestrial fungi.
Fungal played an essential role in the formation of the biosphere in the last of the last billion years. Five hundred million years ago, when the first plants came on land, they formed a strong relationship with the fungi. This process facilitated the evolution of plants, and further research is already underway.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.