Oldest Fungus Micro-Fossil Found In Canada’s Arctic Region

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Oldest Fungus Micro-Fossil has been found in an Arctic region of north-western Canada that is about 900 million to 1 billion years old. This will help shed some light on the origins of an important branch in Earth’s plant life. The micro-fossils show a globular spore connected to a T-shaped filament.

The multi-cellular fungus named Ourasphaira giraldae is a forerunner to an immensely diverse group including mushrooms, yeasts and molds. The oldest-known fungus fossil until now was one about 410 million years old excavated from Scotland.

Fungi have a crucial role in global ecosystem, organic decomposition process being the foremost. These belong to a broad group named Eukaryotas. The major difference between the plant and fungi is that fungi cannot perform photosynthesis.

As there has been a close evolutionary relationship between fungi and animals, researchers believe that early forms of microscopic animal life may have existed at the same time as Ourasphaira. The earliest rudimentary animal fossil found by researchers is about 635 million years old.

“Fungi are one of the more diverse groups of Eukaryotas known today and, despite this, their ancient fossil record is very scarce,” said Corentin Loron, paleobiologist of the University of Liège in Belgium and the lead author of the research. It has been published in the journal Nature.

He stated that the fossil record from that era “is still a mysterious jigsaw puzzle, and we just added a new piece to it.”

 “Of course, when talking about fungi, we think of poisonous mushrooms or mold that grows on food,” said Loron. “But fungi are also well known to help productivity in cultivated fields, for fermentation purposes like yeast in beer, or for their role in the digestive system — for example, in the rumen of cows — to help cellulose digestion,” he added in a statement. 

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