More than 100,000 species of fungi have been identified by now, but it is estimated that there may be up to 3.8 million.
Few people know that fungi perform a selection of unseen but useful tasks. One of the best ones is the breakdown of dead plants and animals. The nutrients obtain in this way are cycled through the environment and play an important role. Fungi are also essential for plants since rich webs of fungi that are present within the soil can transfer food, water, and relevant chemical signals.
There is much to learn about fungi, as many aspects remain elusive. It dead that they surfaced more than 1 billion years ago, branching from animals. However, a significant continuity issue is represented by the fact that they vanished for millions of years before appearing again.
The oldest fungi in the world
Two teams of researchers have strived to uncover more details about fungi, and the information is quite impressive. The first team observed that a fossil with an age of 1 billion years contained a microscopic fungus. In the case of the second team, the researchers analyzed a fossil that is at least 715 million years old and concluded that it is a branch of filament fungi.
According to a researcher who contributed to the second paper, the results will change the way in which science perceives fungi. To verify that they discovered real fungi, the researchers used a series of techniques to see if the filaments contained chitin. The presence of chitin proves that it was an actual fungus.
During the time when this fungus was alive, the land was covered in bacteria and perhaps biofilms. Another three hundred million years would pass before the first plants appeared. It is theorized that the fungus lived in sediment and consumed decaying organic manner. Further research is already underway, and the two papers were published in scientific journals.