Sunday, 11 June 2017

Fossil mushroom discovered from the era of the dinosaurs

With a classic shape, gills and a sturdy stalk, it wouldn’t look out of place in a stir-fry – but in fact it’s the fossilised remains of a mushroom thought to have sprouted about 115m years ago. It is the world’s oldest known fossil mushroom, and it is remarkable that it was preserved at all.
“It is pretty astonishing,” said Sam Heads, a palaeontologist and co-author of the research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Mushrooms are really ephemeral in the sense that to begin with they sprout up, they grow and then usually they are gone within a few days – but they are not around for very long. Also when you consider their structure, they are very soft and fleshy and so they decay really rapidly, so the chances of one being preserved are pretty minuscule.”
While fossilised fungal filaments have previously been found dating back several hundreds of millions of years, only 10 fossil mushrooms, the fruiting body produced by some fungi, have ever been discovered – with the previous oldest dating to 99m years ago.
What’s more, all of these previously discovered fossilised mushrooms were trapped in amber. “You imagine mushrooms are growing on the forest floor, resin drops out of the trees onto the forest floor – and encapsulates a mushroom,” said Heads. “That is a much more likely scenario than the scenario that we see with this mushroom.”READ MORE

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