What on Earth do giant mushrooms have to do with how any of us got here? Well, it’s actually quite a cool story.

Fungi have been around for a while, at least 440 million years. Before there were any lush forests or an abundance of creatures calling terrestrial earth home, there were fungi. And these fungi paved the way for life on land, as we know it, to exist.

If there’s one thing we love to celebrate here on Ever Widening Circles, it’s the weird and wonderful things on this planet that make life possible (or at least a little more interesting).

Close to our hearts is dispelling the myths of the “gross” or “ugly”. We’ve talked about how toilets are saving the world, praised the humble sea slug, and tried to get our readers to love the bacteria around them. So, why not add in a little praise for fungi?

So let’s dive in…

Like I said up top, fungi are responsible for life on land as we see it today. They (quite literally) reshaped the planet from the ground up.

These days, we think of fungi mostly in terms of mushrooms or molds. Small, perhaps unextraordinary, organisms. But once upon a time there stood a giant, towering fungus named Prototaxites. It was so big that when it was first discovered scientist thought it was a tree, though for a long while they settled for just calling it “weird fungus thing”.

Do I have you on that fungi curiosity train yet?

Well, that’s enough from me, the amateur paleontology enthusiast. To learn about these incredible giants of the fungus world, and dive into how fungi have made life possible for here on Earth, let’s hear from the fantastic channel PBS Eons. I like to describe their content as the best way to let your inner child free again and geek out over the fossil world. So if you haven’t checked them out yet, set aside some time to dive in and enjoy every one of the amazing episodes on their channel!

Via: PBS Eons 1

So, there you have it. Fungi helped create the earliest dirt we needed to get life on land up and running. And, as they said, it now plays an important role in keeping plants alive too!

5 minutes

Welcome to the Wood Wide Web, Meet the Internet of Fungus!

Did you know that forests are connected with an internet of fungus? There is an incredible network growing beneath our feet lovingly called the wood wide web!

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To jump back to the point I made earlier about our love for celebrating the “gross” things on this planet. I do firmly believe that gaining a greater appreciation for the diversity and complexity of life makes the world more extraordinary.

There is something so satisfying about walking through the world when you have the knowledge to be curious about it.

If you fancy yourself a curious creature or want to get started down a great rabbit hole of wonder, I suggest you jump in with our piece on the DNA of cheese. It’s got all of our favorites: microbes, fungi, oh yes, and cheese!

8 minutes

The DNA of CHEESE!

Cheese isn't just delicious, it's also a remarkable feat of science! And scientists are using DNA sequencing to learn more about it. Let's see what they're finding...

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into the world of the weird and wonderful! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you can explore here on Ever Widening Circles. For more, check out the suggested articles down at the bottom of this page, or try out our surprise button over in the sidebar (it will take you someplace awesome every time)!

Stay curious & keep laughing!

-Liesl

Fall down an EWC click hole!

Alright, if you want to jump into more wonders of nature make sure you check our or full library of nature articles. There’s something there for everyone (even if you’re not a fungi fan)!

Nature on EWC

And if you’ve enjoyed Ever Widening Circles, please consider supporting us! A few dollars a month has a huge effect on what we’re able to accomplish. Head on over to our Patreon to learn more!

Notes:

  1. “When Giant Fungi Ruled.” YouTube, PBS Eons, 18 Dec. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-G64DagHuOg. Accessed 3 Jan. 2019.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Liesl is a camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV