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Fossil Mushroom

Earliest Fossil Mushroom appears `Quite Modern'

The fossil resin known as amber is appreciated for its warmth and beauty, hence its extended history of mining and jewellry manufacture. Particularly prized are pieces of amber containing plant or animal material. An extraordinary variety of specimens have been fossilised in this way and, because they are so well preserved, numerous fascinating investigations have taken place. Fossils show us something of what living things looked like in the past. Do organisms get `more primitive' as we go back in time? Are modern day forms more complex than their predecessors? 

One of the more recently published studies concerned a nearly complete mushroom fossilised in amber (Science, 1 June 1990, 1099-1101). It was an important find, as mushrooms are extremely rare in the fossil record. After studying all the details, the fossil mushroom was identified as an ink-cap (of the genus Coprinus). It was different from modern day species, but not at all primitive. The authors describe its appearance to be `quite modern' suggesting that the evolutionary ancestors of the mushrooms arose `much earlier' than previously supposed.

We recognise the expertise of the investigators in their description of the fossil and the way it relates to living forms. We recognise their expertise in checking that the fossil is genuine. But we challenge those few sentences which infer an evolutionary ancestry: there is no significant evidence on which to base these statements! The data-sheet entitled `Evolutionary ancestors' is blank, for the earliest fossil mushroom known is completely normal in appearance (ie. no antique features). The evolutionary statements have no basis in science, and they reflect the presuppositions of the investigators.

Creationists have different presuppositions. We are not looking for `evolutionary ancestors', although we are happy to speak of ancestors showing limited variation going back to the created kind or `basic type'. When we find essentially modern forms appearing in the fossil record, we have no need to infer transitional forms linking them to evolutionary ancestors. 

Now this fossil mushroom evidence is typical of the whole fossil record. Why is the fact concealed that so many ancient fossils resemble their descendants living today? You could tuck into mushrooms for dinner today. Equally, you could just as easily have tucked into them way back before they could have become fossilised in amber. They are still the same: in other words . . . mushrooms!


Poinar, G.O. and Singer, R. 1990. Upper Eocene gilled mushroom from the Dominican Republic.
Science. 248(1 June), 1099-1101. 

David J. Tyler (1991)

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