Scientists find world’s oldest fossil mushroom

Roughly 115 million years ago, when the ancient supercontinent Gondwana was breaking apart, a mushroom fell into a river and began an improbable journey. Its ultimate fate as a mineralized fossil preserved in limestone in northeast Brazil makes it a scientific wonder, INHS scientists report in the journal PLOS ONE. Read the press release on this important find here.

Froghopper from Montana

Our team collected many interesting new fossils during fieldwork in Montana last month. Here team member Susan McIntyre poses with a beautifully preserved spittlebug wing she discovered at one of the excavation sites in the Oligocene Renova Formation.

Spittlebugs (also called froghoppers) are insects of the superfamily Cercopoidea (order Hemiptera). They feed by sucking juices from plants through their straw-like mouthparts and are capable of jumping impressive distances. Their common name comes from their habit of surrounding themselves in protective froth as nymphs.

Preserving a fragile history

ALDER, MONTANA – I drive slowly over the hilly terrain in Fossil Basin and park near the remnants of an old campsite. In the 1950s and early 1960s, botanist Herman Becker camped here and collected fossil insects and plants from the Renova Formation’s paper shales.

Go behind the scenes with M. Jared Thomas in this article from the U of I News Bureau.

Drawing insights from ancient plants

ALDER, MONTANA – I’m sitting near the top of our fossil excavation site in southwest Montana, my hammer and shovel ready. I have a perfect view of the mountains. A wall of fossil-laden shale lies before me, and I’m ready to dig in.

Go behind the scenes with Danielle Ruffatto in this article from the U of I News Bureau.

The fossils of Madison County (Montana)

ALDER, MONTANA – Standing at the foot of the mountains, I look to the east. It’s still early and I have hiked up here alone to gather my thoughts. I can see why they call this “Big Sky Country.” The tree-covered foothills of the mountains behind me give way to rolling scrubland. Stunted trees mark the edges of dry creek beds cut into the soft rocks below. This is southwest Montana, and I’m here to hunt.

Go behind the scenes with paleontologist Sam Heads as he hunts for fossils in Montana in this article from the U of I News Bureau.