We’re not sure that we have ever eaten a Morel but they look pretty appetising to us – Deskarati
Dinosaurs squashed them with impunity. Thousands of species that lacked culinary appreciation have turned up their noses at them. And a study based on advanced DNA analysis has shown that this shameful indifference went on for 129 million years.
Finally, however, one animal species came along that would learn to appreciate this particular fungus with almost a global reverence – homo sapiens. Thus was born the human affection for the morel – for millions of people around the world, it’s what you mean when you say “mushroom hunting.”
In the Pacific Northwest, finding morels has even evolved into a cottage industry. One species is fairly common after a forest fire, leading to the odd phenomenon of crowds of people sometimes showing up in the spring in an area that burned the previous summer. Dried morels are now sometimes found in supermarkets or available on the Internet.
Based on the new genetic analysis, scientists now know that morels are very old, but not at all the oldest of 1.5 million species of fungi. They are found widely around the world, probably traveled with the continents as they drifted apart, but still look pretty much the same way they did millions of years ago.
There’s one big difference now. At least one animal on Earth has finally come to appreciate them.