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Day af­ter day, bil­lions of in­vis­i­ble fun­gal spores rain down upon us. Each holds the DNA blueprint for a fun­gus, and it can faith­fully pre­serve that DNA for as­ton­ish­ing pe­ri­ods of time.

Last year re­searchers from the Ja­pan Agency for Ma­rine-earth Science and Tech­nol­ogy grew a one­cen­time­tre tall mush­room from spores re­cov­ered from a drill core, a long thin sec­tion of seabed ma­te­rial. Bor­ing 2.5 km un­der the Pa­cific seabed, the bot­tom of the core con­tained 20-mil­lion-year- old sed­i­ments that car­ried the spores of an an­cient land-based fun­gus. It ap­pears most closely re­lated to a species called Schizo­phyl­lum com­mune.


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