Oldest fungal fossil discovered in canada

Oldest fungal fossil discovered in canada

Researchers have discovered fossils of fungi about a billion years old. It is by far the oldest unambiguously dated record of living creatures. Ourasphaira giraldae is more than half a billion years older than previously found mushroom fossils.

A group led by corentin loron from the university of luttich (belgium) found numerous specimens of the fungus in shale rock from northwestern canada.

"Since O. Giraldae is preserved in the shallow-water estuarine shale of the grassy bay formation, this fungus may have lived in an estuarine environment," the researchers write in the scientific journal "nature". According to them, the accumulation of organic waste products from other creatures in this area could have allowed the fungus to grow and thrive quite well. O. Giralda, according to the researchers, has the closest resemblance to a group of mushrooms, which also includes the tubular mushrooms and the stander mushrooms.

Among other things, fungi play a key role in biological cycles through the decomposition of organic substances, as partners in a symbiosis and through the binding of phosphate. They could also have played an important role in the conquest of the country, the researchers write. "The later colonization of land by fungi could have preceded and supported the colonization of land by plants through root symbiosis and soil processing."Fungi had created ecological niches, improved the soil and increased nutrient uptake and above-ground productivity.

Loron and colleagues used uranium-lead dating to determine the age of the layer beneath the fossils to be about one billion and ten million years old. With rhenium-osmium dating, organic material from the layer above the fossils could be dated to about 892 million years ago. The fossilized mushroom ourasphaira giraldae is therefore about 0.9 to one billion years old. The fossils so far clearly identified as mushrooms come to an age of 410 million years (location: scotland) and 450 million years (location: wisconsin, USA).

The scientists prove that it is indeed a fungus by analyzing shapes and fine structures as well as spectroscopic measurements. In the two-layer cell walls, the researchers detected the organic substances chitin and chitosan by spectroscopy. Cellulose, the main component of plant cell walls, is not found in the cell wall of ourasphaira giraldae.

Scientists believe that by improving the methods of investigation, more very old fossils of fungi could be found in the future.

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