It may sound like a load of old rot, but this fossilised fungus discovered on the Swedish island of Gotland is believed to be the world’s oldest fossil of any land-dwelling organism.
A group of scientists have discovered groundbreaking evidence suggesting that this is where one of the vital rotting processes laying the foundation for the development of life began.
The above picture of a 440-million-year-old ‘tortotubus’ fungis first published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society is believed to be the earliest example yet found of an organism living on land.
They may not look too impressive, but funghi played a key role in life moving from sea to land 450-500 million years ago, by kick-starting the rotting process and building up a layer of fertile soil, which enabled plants and in turn animal life to develop and survive.
“During the period when this organism existed, life was almost entirely restricted to the oceans: nothing more complex than simple mossy and lichen-like plants had yet evolved on the land,” Dr Martin Smith, who conducted the work while based at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, said.
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