Evolutionary world of Fungi and Plant kingdom

Fungi are not considered plants since they lack chlorophyll, nor are they animals; yet they have relatively complex and different cell structures from both plants and animals. They are a bit like bacteria and mostly rely on dead matter to survive and reproduce. They can grow in the absence of Oxygen, and hence their existence can be traced back to 560 million years ago as one of the first living creatures on the planet, even before the birth of the plant kingdom. We do know with a certain degree of certainty that fungi originated in the sea and were among the earliest creatures to appear on land.

When plants started arriving on land around 440 to 420 million years ago, fungi began a massive turf battle between them. Plants had also evolved in water and had begun to come to the edges of land to seek more sunlight and to be closer to the rich nutrients that were being washed in from the land. The first plants were moss like and grew in the shadow of the fungi on land. Plants were at first outcompeted by fungi and algae. However over the next 10 million years or so, plants evolved the ability to produce something wonderful that helped them beat the fungi. This was Lignin, meaning wood. Lignin was a molecule that was both strong and flexible; a material that could support a lot of weight and yet bend in the wind without breaking. The first plants that helped their shoots grow erect and supported the transportation and storage of nutrients and water more efficiently. This gave them an edge over the fungi and soon they began to beat back the fungi. However, the newly dominant plants also competed with one another for sunlight and nutrients. Around 380 million years ago, plants developed a new structure called leaf, this helped them capture more carbon and release more oxygen in the atmosphere. With this new evolution, plants beat fungi as they were more suited to surviving drier and cold conditions.

Today, the mighty fungi that once pioneered the evolution of life on Earth and shaded the first delicate plants, now grow in the shadow of this very well evolved plant kingdom. Today, Fungi help to decompose leaf litter and feed on the dead and decaying and matter on the forest floor. They produce strong acids that have the ability to dissolve minerals from rocks like iron, silica and magnesium and speed up the process of soil making. Some fungi that had colonised the land at the time when plants also developed the ability to cause disease in the plants, insects and eventually animals that evolved later. Other penetrated the soil and developed close partnerships with the roots of plants creating new chemical cycles, many of which are still only partly understood by science.