Oldest Disease-Causing Fungus

The Natural History Museum of London has revealed the discovery of the oldest disease-causing fungus, named Potteromyces asteroxylicola, dating back 407 million years. The fungus, found in fossil samples from the Rhynie Chert in Scotland, is significant for its role in plant disease during the Early Devonian period.

Tribute to Beatrix Potter

The 407-million-year-old fungus is named after Beatrix Potter, the acclaimed author of Tales of Peter Rabbit and a fungi enthusiast. The discovery sheds light on Potter’s contributions to mycology through her pioneering drawings and studies on fungal growth.

Rhynie Chert: Geological Treasure Trove

Rhynie Chert, a crucial geological site in Scotland, provided the fossil samples. Known for its well-preserved Early Devonian communities, the site includes plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. The discovery proposes a historical precedent for disease-causing fungi, similar to those affecting present-day ash trees in the UK.

Unveiling Potteromyces: A Decade-Long Journey

The first specimen of Potteromyces was found in 2015, featuring unique reproductive structures called conidiophores. The confirmation of this new species came with the discovery of a second specimen, highlighting the fungus’s distinctive characteristics. Technological advancements like confocal microscopy played a crucial role in unlocking secrets from museum collections.



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