Tuesday, July 3, 2012
LONDON: Mushrooms may be the culprit behind the shortage of coal on Earth, as scientists claim to have found evidence that shows the arrival of fleshy fungi species may have stopped the formation of coal deposits about 300 million years ago. Coal is actually the fossilized remains of plants that lived from around 360 to 300 million years ago. But at the end of that period, coal stopped forming. Now, scientists found evidence that show the evolution of fungi, which are capable of Stopped Sly digesting plants, may have stopped dead plants building up into peat and then forming into coal. The discovery might pave the way for new biofuels, the researchers said. "We're hoping this will get into the biology and geology textbooks," study researcher David Hibbett, a Clark University biologist, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. In the research, Hibbett and his colleagues focused on Basidiomycetes, which include mushroom species with the familiar cap-and-stem look. Basidiomycetes also include brown rot fungi such as the dry rot that can destroy houses by breaking down the cellulose in the construction wood but leave the lignin untouched ; and white rot fungi of interest to the pulp and paper industries that can break down both types of polymers. The researchers then used molecular clock analyses to track the evolution of the enzymes back through the fungal lineages. The idea is that just as the hands of a clock move at a defined rate around the dial, genes accumulate mutations at a roughly constant rate.