Scientists say the unique find, believed to be 115m years old, is similar to today’s fungi and may have been edible

With a classic shape, gills and a sturdy stalk, it wouldn’t look out of place in a stir-fry but, in fact, it’s the fossilised remains of a mushroom thought to have sprouted about 115m years ago. It is the world’s oldest known fossil mushroom, and it is remarkable that it was preserved at all.

“It is pretty astonishing,” said Sam Heads, a palaeontologist and co-author of the research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Mushrooms are really ephemeral in the sense that to begin with they sprout up, they grow and then usually they are gone within a few days – but they are not around for very long. Also when you consider their structure, they are very soft and fleshy and so they decay really rapidly, so the chances of one being preserved are pretty minuscule.”

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