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U of I scientists discover world’s oldest mushroom fossil

In case you needed another reason to prove that the University of Illinois is globally relevant, today you can have one. U of I scientists, working on behalf of the Illinois Natural History Survey, have discovered the oldest mushroom fossil in the history of time. 

The fossil, which was locked into limestone in Brazil, and dates roughly 115 million years.

For more information, check out the U of I’s full news release here, and read an excerpt below:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Roughly 115 million years ago, when the ancient supercontinent 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 – lots of it – the mushroom was mineralized, its tissues replaced by pyrite (fool’s gold), which later transformed into the mineral goethite, the researchers report.

“Most mushrooms grow and are gone within a few days,” said Illinois Natural History Survey paleontologist Sam Heads, who discovered the mushroom when digitizing a collection of fossils from the Crato Formation of Brazil. “The fact that this mushroom was preserved at all is just astonishing.

Photo by Jared Thomas / Drawing by Danielle Ruffatto

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