Billion-Year-Old Fungi Found in Canada Might Shed More Life On How Life on Land Evolved

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Billion-year-old fungi were discovered in Canada, in the Canadian Arctic region, to be more precise. Scientists believe this unearthed discovery can change the way we understand the evolution of life on land.

Scientists have thought for decades that the earliest discovered fungi, organisms like mushrooms, yeast, and mold have made their appearance on Earth approximately half a billion years ago. However, late fossil organisms brought to light in Canada and examined using the most modern technology seem to suggest that the arrival of the fungi species happened much earlier than researchers previously thought.

Corentin Loron, a Ph.D. student at the University of Liege in Belgium, and his colleagues analyzed the microfossils to find out the chemical configuration of their cells. They reportedly discovered chitin, which is a stringy substance that appears on fungal cell walls. The team analyzed the age of the rock in which the fossils were found by its levels of radioactive elements. The group deduced that the microfossils were about 900 million to one billion years old.

Billion-year-old fungi unearthed in Canada could help scientists learn more about how life on land evolved

Loron said that the discovery was important because, in the ‘tree of life’ structure, fungi are categorized in the same composite group of organisms like plants and animals. This umbrella class is also referred to as Eukaryotes. Loron also told AFP that what this means is if fungi already existed about 900-1000 million years ago, animals should have been around as well.

This discovery is shedding light on the way we see the world because these groups of organisms still exist today. Given this, the faraway past, even though extremely different from today, may have been much more advanced than we previously thought, he added.

Fungi are the most plentiful organisms on the planet, also raked as the third highest benefactor to global biomass, immediately after plants and bacteria. The fungi are six times larger in mass than all species of animals combined, including humans. The research has been published on Wednesday, May the 22th, on journal Nature.


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