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World’s oldest fossil mushroom discovered

Fossil of Gondwanagaricites magnificus . Jared Thomas

Fossil of Gondwanagaricites magnificus . Jared Thomas  

The specimen had gills under its cap

The world’s oldest fossil mushroom — dating back to about 115 million years — has been discovered in Brazil, according to researchers who hailed the finding as a “scientific wonder”.

The mushroom has been named Gondwanagaricites magnificus and belongs to the Agaricales order, researchers said.

About five centimetres tall, the mushroom had gills under its cap, rather than pores or teeth, structures that release spores and that can aid in identifying species, they said. “Most mushrooms grow and are gone within a few days,” said Sam Heads, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US.

“The fact that this mushroom was preserved at all is just astonishing,” said Mr. Heads, who discovered the mushroom when digitising a collection of fossils from the Crato Formation of Brazil.

Around 115 million years ago, when the ancient super-continent Gondwana was breaking apart, the mushroom fell into a river and began an improbable journey, researchers said.

Its ultimate fate as a mineralised fossil preserved in limestone in northeast Brazil makes it a scientific wonder, they said.

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