(Image courtesy: Telegraph UK)
If Martin Smith from Durham University is to be believed, and we have no reason not to and strong points to the contrary in fact, then we owe a deep debt of gratitude to one tiny, little fella; the Tortotubus, for earth’s barren landscape to have turned into a lush habitat.
Oh, and the Tortotubus, it’s a type of fungi. Just a small note.
But, before all of you start feeling icky and what not, wait till you read about the fascinating journey this organism has undertaken.
How do we know about it?
All thanks to Martin Smith’s research of course. Samples of the fungi were discovered on the Scottish Inner Hebridean island of Kerrera, and in Gotland, Sweden, by him and his team. Fossils suggest these were shorter than the width of a human hair, but nonetheless, are responsible for pioneering flourishment of life form on the land. All other samples of fossils predating this one, are of marine life forms. This makes the Tortotubus the oldest-known land fossil, and technically our ancestor maybe?
(Image courtesy: Martin Smith)
Dating back to about 440 million years ago, the fungi strain apparently kick-started the process of rot and soil formation and is thought to have kindly helped feed the soil with nutrients which could supporting terrestrial plant life. Too complicated?
So basically, before this fossil was discovered, all other life-form fossils were only of sea creatures. At some point in time, likely 440 million years ago, marine creatures were trying to and later successfully did, make the switch from being in water all the time, to experiencing solid ground.
However, for these life forms to flourish, a suitable habitat was required. Now, this is where Tortotubus had the most significant role to play. By doing its thing, it provided opportunity for plant life on land to start, grow and flourish, by the rot and soil formation cycle. It is believed it subsisted on algae and bacteria, which have failed to fossilise, but not our resilient pioneer!
(Image courtesy: Inverse)
Did You Know?
“It's probably fair to say that land plants wouldn't or couldn't have evolved without the collaboration of fungi, so it's interesting to see them turning up... around the same time that land plants are first appearing,” Nick Butterfield, a Cambridge scientist, remarked about the discovery.
Well, as they truly say, a raindrop forms an ocean and all good things come in small packages. And all of humanity right now, owes their lives to the tiny in size but mighty in deed, Tortotubus, a fungi type.
Pssst! Think about that the next time you’re devouring mushrooms!