In a development being dubbed as scientific wonder, the worlds oldest fossil mushroom, dating back to about 115 million years, has been discovered in Brazil.
Roughly 115 million years ago, when the ancient super-continent Gondwana was breaking apart, a mushroom fell into a river and began an improbable journey.
Its ultimate fate as a mineralized fossil preserved in limestone in northeast Brazil makes it a scientific wonder, scientists report in the journal PLOS ONE.
The mushroom somehow made its way into a highly saline lagoon, sank through the stratified layers of salty water and was covered in layer upon layer of fine sediments.
In time most of the mushroom was mineralized, its tissues replaced by pyrite (fool’s gold), which later transformed into the mineral goethite, the researchers report.
The fossil mushroom has been named Gondwanagaricites magnificus and belongs to the Agaricales order, researchers said.
About five centimetres tall, the mushroom had gills under its cap, rather than pores or teeth, structures that release spores and that can aid in identifying species, they said.
“Most mushrooms grow and are gone within a few days,” said Sam Heads, from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign in the US.
“The fact that this mushroom was preserved at all is just astonishing,” said Heads, who discovered the mushroom when digitising a collection of fossils from the Crato Formation of Brazil.
Before this discovery, the oldest fossil mushrooms found had been preserved in amber, said Andrew Miller, a co-author of the report.
The next oldest mushroom fossils, found in amber in Southeast Asia, date to about 99 million years ago, he said.