Oldest Known Mushroom Found

From OregonLive.com.

Discovery - Two parasites are also embedded in a 100-million-year-old piece of amber found in Burma.

An Oregon scientist and a Kentucky nurse have found the oldest known mushroom, entombed in a 100-million-year-old piece of amber from Burma.

A closer examination of the nine-hundredths-inch-long mushroom cap revealed that it had been infected by an ancient parasite, which a second parasite was feeding on.

"I was amazed enough with the mushroom," said George Poinar, a retired entomology professor in Corvallis. "But then seeing the parasites was astonishing. No one has ever seen this three-tier association before."

Joseph Spatafora, a fungi specialist and a professor of botany and plant pathology at OSU, said the amber discovery is significant because mushroom fossils are rare. Few ancient mushrooms -- the fruiting bodies of fungi -- survive because they lack bones or shells that help preserve other organisms.

"So the amber specimen can give us a lot of insight to what fungal diversity was at this time in the past," Spatafora said, and gives scientists an idea about fungi's role in forest ecosystems.


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