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The mushroom, named Gondwanagaricites magnificus, was about five centimeters (two inches) tall.Electron microscopy revealed it had gills under its cap, which are structures that release spores and can aid in identifying species, helping to place the fossilized mushroom in the Agaricales order of gilled mushrooms.It made its way into a highly saline lagoon, sank through the stratified layers of salty water, and was covered in layers of fine sediment, in time becoming a fossil.The world’s oldest fossil mushroom (pictured left) was preserved in limestone, an extraordinarily rare event, researchers say.Pictured right is a diagram of the mushroom, with its key identifying structures labeled.
The mushroom fell into a river and began its journey in becoming a fossil at the time when Earth's supercontinent Gondwana was breaking apart.
'Most mushrooms grow and are gone within a few days,' said Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) paleontologist Dr Sam Heads, who discovered the mushroom when digitizing (converting to a digital form that can be processed by a computer) a collection of fossils from the Crato Formation of Brazil.
'The fact that this mushroom was preserved at all is just astonishing.''When you think about it, the chances of this thing being here – the hurdles it had to overcome to get from where it was growing into the lagoon, be mineralized and preserved for 115 million years – have to be minuscule,' he said.
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