Research Highlights: Fossils Give Possible Clues to the Land Colonization by Fungi

land colonization
Networks of filaments

land colonization
Large spheres

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.[1]
  • 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).


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