One billion year old fungi found are Earth's oldest

Of the 550 gigatonnes of biomass on Earth, fungi make up 12 Gt—more than six times all animals combined
Of the 550 gigatonnes of biomass on Earth, fungi make up 12 Gt—more than six times all animals combined

Scientists have unearthed fossilised fungi dating back up to one billion years, in a discovery that could reshape our understanding of how life on land evolved, research showed Wednesday.

For decades, the earliest known such as mushrooms, mould and yeast—was thought to have appeared on earth around half a billion years ago.

But recent fossil specimens unearthed in Canada and analysed using the latest dating technology appear to push back fungi's arrival to the earliest reaches of life on land.

Corentin Loron, a PhD student from the University of Liege, Belgium, and colleagues examined the microfossils to determine the chemical composition of their cells.

They found the presence of chitin—a fibrous substance that forms on fungal cell walls—and examined the age of the rock the fossils were found in by its ratio of radioactive elements.

They concluded the microfossils were between 900 million and one billion years old.

Loron said the finding was significant because in the "tree of ", fungi are part of the same umbrella group of organisms—known as Eukaryotes—as plants and animals.

"This means that if fungi are already present around 900-1000 million years ago, so should animals have been," he told AFP.

"This is reshaping our vision of the world because those groups are still present today. Therefore, this distant past, although very different from today, may have been much more 'modern' than we thought."

Fungi are among the most abundant organisms on the planet and are the third largest contributor to global biomass after plants and bacteria.

They are six times heavier than the mass of all combined—including humans.

The study was published in the journal Nature.


Explore further

Fossils may be earliest known multicellular life: study

More information: Corentin C. Loron et al. Early fungi from the Proterozoic era in Arctic Canada, Nature (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1217-0
Journal information: Nature

© 2019 AFP

Citation: One billion year old fungi found are Earth's oldest (2019, May 22) retrieved 17 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-05-billion-year-fungi-earth-oldest.html
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May 23, 2019
Impossible. The study of the Bible by Christian True Believers, tells us that the Earth is only 7,000 years old.

They wouldn't be lying to the world, would they?

What would be their motivation for these Christians lying?

May 23, 2019
@V4, you better use some sarcasm tags or someone might think you're serious.

May 23, 2019
That date makes it nearly as old as the oldest plant fossils of red algae at 1.6 billion years [ http://www.sci-ne...700.html ].

The current best fossil/genome integrated tree [ https://www.natur...8-0644-x ] has the Animal/Fungi split at 1.3 billion years old and plants split out at 1.6 so roughly consistent so far. Of course more details would improve the dates, but not too bad as far as these things go.

@V4V: It is of course good to vent once in a while, and if you are from US the rampant superstitious delusion can be bothering - the latest estimates has non-religious as only 26 % (but growing fast) and that estimate has to take out that self reporting gets less than 20 %.

But really, it is irrelevant and boring for others who are here for the science. We can safely block the inane trolls, since they are unteachable and the global population is kicking the superstition habits anyway. Of course, only my opinion.

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