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Endolithic fungi: A possible killer for the mass extinction of Cretaceous dinosaurs

Abstract

Mycelium-like structures found under ESEM within radial sections of fragmental dinosaur eggshells would be the endolithic fungi coexistent with dinosaur eggs in the upper part of the Late Cretaceous Hugang Formation from the Wenjiaping section of Wenxian, Danjiangkou, northwestern Hubei, Central China. The endolithic fungi selectively occurred in the bad biomineral zone within the columnar layer of the eggshells, where the crowded endolithic fungi penetrated the columnar layer at near-vertical or near-horizontal angles. The endolithic fungi are needle-like, ribbon-like and silk-like, and 5–18 μm long, 0.3–0.5 μm wide at their base, with pointed tip, and are unbranched. The hyphae are mainly composed of oxygen, carbon and calcium, and are with minor sodium, potassium, chlorine and sulfur. The endolithic fungi and host have the same characters in lithification, fracture and main chemical composition. We suggested that the episode endolithic fungi invading dinosaur eggs may have taken place in the interval between after formation of dinosaur eggshells and before their petrification and that dinosaur eggs invaded by endolithic fungi would not be normally incubated or would only be incubated into venerable and pathologic baby dinosaurs to be easily to aborted and contributed to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of Cretaceous.

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Correspondence to YiMing Gong.

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Supported by the Special Project of Basic Research of China (Grant No. 2005CCA05000), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 40472020 and 40621002) and the 111 Project (Grant No. B08030) and the SINOPEC Project (Grant No. G0800-06-ZS-319)

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Gong, Y., Xu, R. & Hu, B. Endolithic fungi: A possible killer for the mass extinction of Cretaceous dinosaurs. Sci. China Ser. D-Earth Sci. 51, 801–807 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-008-0052-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-008-0052-1

Keywords

  • endolithic fungi
  • dinosaur eggs
  • mass extinction
  • Cretaceous