Fossils Give Possible Clues to the Land Colonization by Fungi
- Colonization of land on the planet Earth is a critical part of the history of life.
- During this time, fungi played a variety of roles.
- Fungi contributed to continental weathering, biogeochemical cycles, and interaction with land organisms.
- Determining the time of when fungi colonized the land is crucial to understand the development of terrestrial ecosystem.
- Fungi may have separated around 1200 million years ago.
- However, it is unclear when fungi first moved to land.
- Pre-Devonian fossil record of fungi is very limited.
- There were a number of fungi fossils discovered but came from marine and estuarine environments, and did not show evidence that they came from terrestrial environment.
- Researchers discovered pyritized micro-fossils that looks like fungi in the basal Doushantuo Formation in China.
- Pyrites is a shiny yellow mineral consisting of iron disulphide and typically occurring as intersecting cubic crystals.
- The Doushantuo Formation dates back around 635 million years ago.
- These possible fungi colonized and were preserved in rocks formed after the period when the surface of the Earth was almost entirely frozen.
- Researchers interpreted the organisms as eukaryotes and possible fungi.
- The data provides direct fossil evidence and contributing a more specific timeline of when fungi colonized the land.
Gan, T., Luo, T., Pang, K. et al. Cryptic terrestrial fungus-like fossils of the early Ediacaran Period. Nat Commun 12, 641 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-20975-1
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