WASM Discovers Oldest Form of Fungal Life

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Researchers have discovered microfossils resembling fungi in lavas that erupted on the seafloor 2.4 billion years ago, representing the oldest evidence of fungal life.

Professor Birger Rasmussen, from the WA School of Mines, Curtin University, said he found the microfossils during a routine microscopic study of the lava in the Griquatown West Basin, South Africa.

“I was looking for minerals to date the age of the rock when my attention was drawn to a series of vesicles and when I increased the magnification of the microscope 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.”

The findings suggest that fungi not only emerged much earlier than suspected but also evolved beneath the sea rather than on land.

“The new discovery has implications for the evolution of life on Earth, representing the earliest evidence of possible fungi by 1 to 2 billion years, and the earliest evidence of eukaryotic life by at least 500 million years,” Prof Rasmussen said.

“We hope this research will help to answer fundamental questions about the evolution of life on our planet and beyond.”

You can read the full article published in Nature here