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The oldest fungus in the world discovered in Congo is 810 MILLION years old

The oldest mushroom in the world was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and dates back about 810 million years ago.

Preserved in the rock, fossil mushrooms were found near the city of Mbuji-Mayi in an ‘important’ discovery that breaks the previous age record in about 350 million years.

Fungi played a key role in the history of life by helping to create a primary soil that would then allow plants to grow first in the earth.

Primitive fungi grew in a coastal lagoon or lake, the researchers said.

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The oldest mushroom in the world, pictured, was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and dates back about 810 million years ago.

The oldest mushroom in the world, pictured, was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and dates back about 810 million years ago.

“This is an important discovery, and one that drives us to reconsider our timeline of the evolution of organisms on Earth,” said study author and geologist Steeve Bonneville of the Free University of Brussels.

The fossilized remains of the fungal mycelium, a vast underground network of root-shaped filaments to extract nutrients from the soil, were discovered in rocks dating from 715 to 810 million years.

The ancient rocks that contain the fungus are part of the collection of the Museum of Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, while it is located just outside Brussels.

Fungi were found in rocks that formed in a transitional area between water and land.

This fact, explained Professor Bonneville, “leads us to believe that these microscopic fungi were important partners of the first plants that colonized the Earth’s surface about 500 million years ago.”

The origin of fungi has baffled evolutionary experts for centuries.

Their delicate nature means that their fossils are extremely rare, not to mention that it is difficult to distinguish them from other microorganisms.

“This is an important discovery, and one that drives us to reconsider our timeline of the evolution of organisms on Earth,” said study author and geologist Steeve Bonneville of the Free University of Brussels. In the image, the interconnected filaments were part of a large mycelium.

Taxonomists have described about 120,000 species of fungi, but their global biodiversity is not yet fully understood.

A 2017 estimate suggests that there may be between 2.2 and 3.8 million different species.

Until now, the oldest confirmed fungus was 460 million years old.

Professor Bonneville and his colleagues analyzed the new fungus in microscopic detail using state-of-the-art scanning devices that allowed them to identify it from its molecular composition.

They even detected traces of chitin, a very resistant compound found in fungal cell walls.

Fungi played a key role in the history of life by helping to create a primary soil that would then allow plants to grow first in the earth. In the picture, fungi as seen using laser scanning fluorescence microscopy

Fungi played a key role in the history of life by helping to create a primary soil that would then allow plants to grow first in the earth. In the picture, fungi as seen using laser scanning fluorescence microscopy

Fungi played a key role in the history of life by helping to create a primary soil that would then allow plants to grow first in the earth. In the picture, fungi as seen using laser scanning fluorescence microscopy

The team also determined that the organisms were eukaryotic, which means that their cells were complex and had a nucleus.

For much of Earth’s history, the only living things were single-celled organisms such as bacteria. Today, the planet is home to many larger ones such as trees, elephants and humans. All these are eukaryotes.

In particular, eukaryotes contain sausage-shaped structures called mitochondria that supply them with energy.

Preserved in the rock, fossil mushrooms were found near the city of Mbuji-Mayi in an 'important' discovery that breaks the previous age record in about 350 million years.

Preserved in the rock, fossil mushrooms were found near the city of Mbuji-Mayi in an 'important' discovery that breaks the previous age record in about 350 million years.

Preserved in the rock, fossil mushrooms were found near the city of Mbuji-Mayi in an ‘important’ discovery that breaks the previous age record in about 350 million years.

“Only through the cross-correlation of chemical and microspectroscopic analysis could we demonstrate that the structures found in the old rock are in fact remains of fungi of around 800 million years,” said the author and geoscientist of the article Liane Benning.

The fossils of previous fungi had been identified based solely on the morphology of their organic remains, which were extracted from the rocks using corrosive acids.

“This method damages the chemistry of organic fossils and only allows morphological analysis,” said Professor Bonneville.

This, he added, “can lead to incorrect interpretations because certain morphological characteristics are common to different branches of living organisms.”

Recent research has suggested that dry land was colonized by primitive fungi.

Fungi were vital to lay the groundwork for complex plants, and then animals, to exist outside the sea at the beginning of the processes of rotting and soil formation.

Scientists generally agree that life first migrated from the oceans to the earth about 500-450 million years ago, at the beginning of the Paleozoic era.

But before complex life forms could emerge, there was a need for nutrients in the earth to maintain them.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal. Scientific advances.

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