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The world's oldest mushroom has been discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo and dates back to around 810 million years ago.
Preserved in rock, the fossil fungi were found near the city of Mbuji-Mayi in a 'major' discovery that smashes the previous age record by some 350 million years.
Role - History - Life - Soil - Plants
The fungi played a key role in the history of life by helping to create primordial soil that would later allow plants to first grow on the land.
The primitive mushrooms grew in a lagoon or coastal lake, the researchers said.
'This - Discovery - ? - Timeline - Evolution
'This is a major discovery — and one that prompts us to reconsider our timeline of the evolution of organisms on Earth,' said paper author and geologist Steeve Bonneville of the Free University of Brussels.
The fossilised remains of the fungal mycelium — a vast underground network of root-like filaments for extracting nutrients from the soil — were discovered in rocks dating back to between around 715–810 million years.
Ancient - Fungus - Part - Collection - Africa
The ancient rocks containing the fungus are part of the collection of the Africa Museum in Tervuren, Belgium, while lies just outside of Brussels.
The fungi were found in rocks that formed in a transitional area between water and the land.
Fact - Professor - Bonneville - Microscopic - Mushrooms
This fact, explained Professor Bonneville, 'leads us to believe these microscopic mushrooms were important partners of the first plants that colonised the Earth's surface around 500 million years ago.'
The origin of mushrooms has mystified evolutionary experts for centuries.
Nature - Fossils - ? - Microorganisms
Their delicate nature means that their fossils are extremely rare — not to mention difficult to tell apart from other microorganisms.
Around 120,000 species of fungi have been described by taxonomists — but their global biodiversity is still not fully understood.
Estimate - Species
A 2017 estimate suggests there may be between 2.2 and 3.8 million different species.
Until now, the oldest confirmed...
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