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An exotic terrestrial-aquatic fungus from the Miocene of Poland – a unique find in Europe

Fungi appeared on Earth in the distant past (several hundred million years ago) and currently number around 2–3 million species. They are predominantly terrestrial organisms, commonly associated as components of the forest floor. Fungi can also occur in aquatic environments, but their diversity there is noticeably lower. The main ecological role of fungi, both on land and in water, is the decomposition of dead organic matter, whereby elements trapped in complex chemical compounds (including decomposition-resistant polymers such as lignin and cellulose) are recirculated back into nature.

Recently, scientists from our Institute, Elżbieta Worobiec and Grzegorz Worobiec, together with colleagues, described fossil spores of a fungus from the genus Potamomyces – a terrestrial-aquatic organism associated with decaying wood – which they found during palynological investigations of Miocene sediments from four sites located in Poland (Adamów lignite mine, Bełchatów lignite mine, Babczyn borehole, Komorniki borehole). The finds are several million years old and represent the first known fossil records of the genus Potamomyces from Europe. The contemporary range of Potamomyces includes mainly countries in the intertropical zone. Thus, the presence of this fungus in the studied sediments confirms the warm, even subtropical climate of the Miocene of Poland, and at the same time a significant cooling of this climate in the last several million years (in Poland Potamomyces was not found in strata from later geological periods).

The research of our palynologists is important in the context of the ongoing discussion on current climate change, as it shows how fast such changes have occurred in the Earth's recent (on a geological scale) past and what impact they have had on the biosphere.

See original article:

{article title="Worobiec Worobiec Gedl Kasiński Peryt - 2022 - Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 67: 737–744"}[text]{/article}

Fossil spores of Potamomyces.
Photo: Elżbieta Worobiec and Grzegorz Worobiec.