Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Ancient Fungus Finding Suggests World's Forests Were Wiped Out In Global Catastrophe

Date:
October 2, 2009
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
Tiny organisms that covered the planet more than 250 million years ago appear to be a species of ancient fungus that thrived in dead wood, according to new research. Scientists believe that the organisms were able to thrive during this period because the world's forests had been wiped out. This would explain how the organisms, which are known as Reduviasporonites, were able to proliferate across the planet.

An enlarged image of Reduviasporonites. Scientists believe extinct fungus species capitalised on a world-wide disaster and thrived on early Earth.
Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College London

Tiny organisms that covered the planet more than 250 million years ago appear to be a species of ancient fungus that thrived in dead wood, according to new research published October 1 in the journal Geology.

The researchers behind the study, from Imperial College London and other universities in the UK, USA and The Netherlands, believe that the organisms were able to thrive during this period because the world's forests had been wiped out. This would explain how the organisms, which are known as Reduviasporonites, were able to proliferate across the planet.

Researchers had previously been unsure as to whether Reduviasporonites were a type of fungus or algae. By analysing the carbon and nitrogen content of the fossilised remains of the microscopic organisms, the scientists identified them as a type of wood-rotting fungus that would have lived inside dead trees.

Fossil records of Reduviasporonites reveal chains of microscopic cells and reflect an organism that lived during the Permian-Triassic period, before the dinosaurs, when the Earth had one giant continent called Pangaea.

Geological records show that the Earth experienced a global catastrophe during this period. Basalt lava flows were unleashed on the continent from a location centred on what is present day Siberia. Up to 96 per cent of all marine species and 70 per cent of land species became extinct. Traditionally, scientists had thought that land plants weathered the catastrophe without much loss.

Today's findings suggest that much of the vegetation on Pangaea did not survive and that the world's forests were wiped out, according to the researchers. Geological records show that there was a massive spike in the population of Reduviasporonites across Pangea as the Permian period came to an end. The scientists suggest that this means that there was in increase in the supply of wood for them to decay.

Professor Mark Sephton, one of the authors of the study from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, comments:

"Our study shows that neither plant nor animal life escaped the impact of this global catastrophe. Ironically, the worst imaginable conditions for plant and animal species provided the best possible conditions for the fungi to flourish."

The team suggest that the basalt lava, which flowed during Permian-Triassic catastrophe, unleashed toxic gases into the air. The gases had a dual effect, producing acid rain and depleting the ozone layer. The outcome was the destruction of forests, providing enough rotting vegetation to nourish Reduviasporonites so that they could proliferate across Pangaea.

The team reached their conclusions by analysing the carbon and nitrogen content of Reduviasporonites using a High Sensitivity Mass Spectrometer and comparing the results with those from modern fungi. They discovered that Reduviasporonites and modern fungi show similar chemical characteristics.

In the future, the team plan to carry out further comparisons between Reduviasporonites and potential counterparts among modern fungi, which they hope will provide further clues about how Reduviasporonites lived.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mark A. Sephton, Henk Visscher, Cindy V. Looy, Alexander B. Verchovsky, and Jonathan S. Watson. Chemical constitution of a Permian-Triassic disaster species. Geology, October 2009; v. 37; no. 10; DOI: 10.1130/G30096A.1

Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "New Ancient Fungus Finding Suggests World's Forests Were Wiped Out In Global Catastrophe." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091001181051.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2009, October 2). New Ancient Fungus Finding Suggests World's Forests Were Wiped Out In Global Catastrophe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091001181051.htm
Imperial College London. "New Ancient Fungus Finding Suggests World's Forests Were Wiped Out In Global Catastrophe." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091001181051.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

How to Make Single Serving Smoothies: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 24, 2014) Smoothies are a great way to get in lots of healthy ingredients, plus they taste great! Howdini has a trick for making the perfect single-size smoothie that will save you time on cleanup too! All you need is a blender and a mason jar. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins