Diversity of microfungi preserved in European Palaeogene amber

Elina Kettunen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Fungi are one of the most diverse groups of organisms, but their fossil record is scarce compared with that of plants and animals. However, many fossils of microfungi have survived as inclusions in amber, which is fossilized resin produced by ancient trees millions of years ago. Some of these fossils were already discovered and described during the 19th century. There are important sources of Palaeogene amber in Europe: the Baltic and Bitterfeld deposits. Baltic amber is about 43–25 Ma old (Eocene), whereas Bitterfeld amber is slightly younger (approx. 24 Ma, Oligocene). The aim of this thesis was to increase our knowledge of the microfungi preserved in the Baltic and Bitterfeld ambers. The material studied included both historic collections and previously unstudied amber specimens. The approach led to several advances in the field of palaeomycology. The systematic affinities of the microfungi described by Robert Caspary and Richard Klebs over a century ago were reassessed. None of these historical specimens belong to the extant fungal genera they were originally assigned to. Amended descriptions were provided for the historical specimens, and several new types of fungi were described from novel amber specimens. These included the first fossils of lichen-associated filamentous fungi. The results demonstrate that relatively few fossil microfungi in amber can be identified accurately enough to be used as minimum age constraints in dating phylogenetic trees of different fungal lineages. All the fossil fungi studied grew either on or in the immediate vicinity of resin-producing trees, which made them likely candidates for preservation in amber.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
  • Rikkinen, Jouko, Supervisor
Award date4 May 2018
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-4151-4
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-4152-1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology

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