How Fungi Helped Create Life as We Know it

How Fungi Helped Create Life as We Know it

Today our world is visually dominated by animals and plants, but this world would not have been possible without fungi, say University of Leeds scientists.

Researchers have carried out experiments where plants and fungi are grown in atmospheres resembling the ancient Earth and, by incorporating their results into computer models, have shown that fungi were essential in the creation of an oxygen-rich atmosphere.

Humans and other mammals require high levels of oxygen to function, and it is generally thought that the planet developed an oxygen-rich atmosphere around 500 to 400 million years ago, as carbon dioxide was gradually photosynthesised by the first land plants.

The research team: Dr. Katie Field from the Centre for Plant Sciences, Dr. Sarah Batterman from the School of Geography and Dr. Benjamin Mills from the School of Earth and Environment, show that fungi played a critical part in establishing the breathable atmosphere on Earth by “mining” the nutrient phosphorus from rocks and transferring it to plants to power photosynthesis.

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