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Keywords:

  • amber;
  • ascomycetes;
  • Dipterocarpaceae;
  • India;
  • melanin;
  • mycorrhizas

Summary

  • The development of mycorrhizal associations is considered a key innovation that enabled vascular plants to extensively colonize terrestrial habitats. Here, we present the first known fossil ectomycorrhizas from an angiosperm forest.
  • Our fossils are preserved in a 52 million-yr-old piece of amber from the Tadkeshwar Lignite Mine of Gujarat State, western India. The amber was produced by representatives of Dipterocarpaceae in an early tropical broadleaf forest. The ectomycorrhizas were investigated using light microscopy and field emission scanning electron microscopy. Dissolving the amber surrounding one of the fossils allowed ultrastructural analyses and Raman spectroscopy.
  • Approx. 20 unramified, cruciform and monopodial-pinnate ectomycorrhizas are fossilized adjacent to rootlets, and different developmental stages of the fossil mycorrhizas are delicately preserved in the ancient resin. Compounds of melanins were detectable in the dark hyphae.
  • The mycobiont, Eomelanomyces cenococcoides gen. et spec. nov., is considered to be an ascomycete; the host is most likely a dipterocarp representative. An early ectomycorrhizal association may have conferred an evolutionary advantage on dipterocarps. Our find indicates that ectomycorrhizas occurred contemporaneously within both gymnosperms (Pinaceae) and angiosperms (Dipterocarpaceae) by the Lower Eocene.