Research ArticlePALEONTOLOGY

Molecular identification of fungi microfossils in a Neoproterozoic shale rock

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Science Advances  22 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 4, eaax7599
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax7599


Precambrian fossils of fungi are sparse, and the knowledge of their early evolution and the role they played in the colonization of land surface are limited. Here, we report the discovery of fungi fossils in a 810 to 715 million year old dolomitic shale from the Mbuji-Mayi Supergroup, Democratic Republic of Congo. Syngenetically preserved in a transitional, subaerially exposed paleoenvironment, these carbonaceous filaments of ~5 μm in width exhibit low-frequency septation (pseudosepta) and high-angle branching that can form dense interconnected mycelium-like structures. Using an array of microscopic (SEM, TEM, and confocal laser scanning fluorescence microscopy) and spectroscopic techniques (Raman, FTIR, and XANES), we demonstrated the presence of vestigial chitin in these fossil filaments and document the eukaryotic nature of their precursor. Based on those combined evidences, these fossil filaments and mycelium-like structures are identified as remnants of fungal networks and represent the oldest, molecularly identified remains of Fungi.

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