As you next munch on a mushroom take a moment to consider that their ancestors are a lot more ancient than first thought. And they might unlock the secrets of life.
That’s the incredible discovery from researchers at Curtin University who found microfossils resembling fungi in lava that erupted on the seafloor 2.4 billion years ago.
It’s the oldest evidence of fungal life, and a breakthrough that could change our understanding of how life has evolved on Earth and beyond.
The researchers’ discovery suggests that fungi not only emerged much earlier than suspected but also evolved beneath the sea rather than on land.
Until now, the fossil evidence for cavity-dwelling fungi only extended back 46 million years, but the new discovery potentially extends that record by 2,400 million years.
Curtin University’s Professor Birger Rasmussen from Curtin University said he found the microfossils during a routine microscopic study of the lava.
“I was looking for minerals to date the age of the rock… and I was startled to find what appeared to be exquisitely preserved fossilised microbes,” Professor Rasmussen said.
“It quickly became apparent that cavities within the volcanic rocks were once crawling with life.
“We hope this research will help to answer fundamental questions about the evolution of life on our planet and beyond,” he said.
The research now aims to identify targets in the search for life on rocky planets in the Solar System, including Mars.
Mushrooms on Mars? Now that’s food for thought.
Read more about the exciting discovery here. Story credit: Curtin University newsroom.
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