Research ArticlePALEONTOLOGY

Molecular identification of fungi microfossils in a Neoproterozoic shale rock

See allHide authors and affiliations

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

Abstract

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.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances


Editor's Blog