A world ruled by fungi

The catastrophe that extinguished the dinosaurs and other animal species, 65 million years ago also brought dramatic changes to the vegetation. In a study presented in latest issue of the journal Science, the paleontologists Vivi Vajda from the University of Lund, Sweden and Stephen McLoughlin from the Queensland University of Technology, Australia have described what happened to the vegetation month by month. They depict a world in darkness where the fungi had taken over.

It´s known that an asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico at the end of the Cretaceous Period. It left a 180 km wide crater and from the impact site tsunamis developed and the Caribbean region was buried in ash and other debris. The consequences of the asteroid impact were global. Vajda and her colleagues have previously studied the broad-scale changes in the New Zealand vegetation following the impact, but now they have dramatically improved our view of the timing of events.

At the end of the Cretaceous the vegetation on New Zealand was dominated by conifers and flowering plants. Many of these species disappeared suddenly at the end of the Period and were instead replaced by fungal spores and fungal threads preserved in a four millimeter thick layer of coal. The layer coincides with fallout of iridium, an element rare in Earth’s crust but which abounds in asteroids.

-We have managed to reconstruct the event month by month, with a very high time resolution, says Vivi Vajda. During a very short period – from between a few months to a couple of years – the fungi and other saprophytes which live on dead organisms must have been the dominating life form on Earth. Atmospheric dust blocked the sunlight and led to the death of plants that are dependent on photosynthesis.

The layer of fossil fungi is followed by a 60 cm thick interval containing traces of the recovery flora, which re-established relatively quickly, ground ferns at first, followed after decades to hundreds of years by more diverse, woody vegetation.

A similar layer of fungi and algae is known from a previous catastrophe which happened 251 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic boundary. This was an even greater mass extinction: about 90% of the existing species disappeared. Research will now focus on whether the similar biological signatures at these mass extinctions reflect similar causal mechanisms.

Media Contact

Göran Frankel alfa

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.vr.se

Alle Nachrichten aus der Kategorie: Life Sciences

Articles and reports from the Life Sciences area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.

Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.

Zurück zur Startseite

Kommentare (0)

Schreib Kommentar

Neueste Beiträge

Cyanobacteria: Small Candidates …

… as Great Hopes for Medicine and Biotechnology In the coming years, scientists at the Chair of Technical Biochemistry at TU Dresden will work on the genomic investigation of previously…

Do the twist: Making two-dimensional quantum materials using curved surfaces

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered a way to control the growth of twisting, microscopic spirals of materials just one atom thick. The continuously twisting stacks of two-dimensional…

Big-hearted corvids

Social life as a driving factor of birds’ generosity. Ravens, crows, magpies and their relatives are known for their exceptional intelligence, which allows them to solve complex problems, use tools…

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close