Carnivorous Fungi from Cretaceous

I’m at home today due to a nasty cold. I hadn’t planned on writing much, but couldn’t resist mentioning this. National Geographic has a story on carnivorous fungi trapped in amber. The find dates to the Cretaceous (~100 MYA).


From National Geographic:

The fossil fungus has branched projections called hyphae that are equipped with small rings.
These rings are coated with tiny particles that suggested they produced a sticky secretion used to trap several nematodes that were preserved close to them, the study team said.
The diameter of the microscopic worms matched that of the fungus’ rings, the team also noted.

Here is a picture:
071213-fungus-carnivore_big.jpg
The find has some interesting implications. The researchers argue that the fungi can’t be assigned to any recent fungi species, which implies that trapping devices among fungi were developed independently multiple times in their evolutionary history.
The research is being published in Science.
Of course, if one is not content to look at pictures, and does not have access to Cretaceous amber, and wants to see this for themselves there is a wonderful experiment!

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6 Responses

  1. implies that trapping devices among fungi were developed independently multiple times in their evolutionary history.
    … or that they are an ancestral, pre-amber-period, trait.

  2. Okay, I admit that I am an historian, not a biologist (though I follow paleaontology as a hobby), but carnivorous fungi? Is this something that is still around today? Sorry for my ignorance, but I was always taught that fungi were very plantlike (other than on Star Trek episodes). Please enlighten me, or tell me where I can attain enlightenment (at a level a liberal arts major can understand).

  3. I recall seeing a video showing nematodes being captured by a fungus on tv some years ago. Carnivorous fungi should not be a surprise–why wait for something to die before eating it? Don’t forget, there are a few carnivorous plants around (venus flytrap, pitcher plants, sundews).

  4. Thank you for the links. I read them and am now enlightened.
    I was familiar with the different carvivorous plants (I especially love the way that the Venus Fly-Trap uses the jaws with two stable positions in order to snap shut). But the thought of fungus that is not only carnivorous (that, having suffered through a few bouts of athlete’s foot, plus some toenail fungus(yeah, I know, too much information, but what the hey, I’m reasonably annonymous here) makes meat eating fungi a no-brainer) but actually hunts animals just blew me away.
    My dad always said, “If you’re not careful, you learn something new every day.” Damn. I wasn’t careful.

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