The Kingdom: How Fungi Made Our World

The evolutionary story of how fungi shaped all terrestrial life — including us.
Available on CBC Gem

The Kingdom: How Fungi Made Our World

Nature of Things

Hidden from sight is a kingdom that rules life on land. It’s an alien world with the largest and oldest organisms alive today. It is the 5th Kingdom of fungi.  

“When we think about the evolution of life on earth, what allowed plants to move out of the sea and to have roots for the first time is fungi. And it’s fungi that services those roots as plants crept from that edge into what we now think of as that normal place that we all live.” Rob Dunn   

 Neither plant nor animal, fungi have been around since the dawn of life. It was fungi that made life possible on a barren planet.  They ate rocks which made soil that allowed plants to colonize land. That changed the climate sparking the evolution of animals. It was fungi that inherited the world after the last mass extinction event and brought life back on Earth. Fungi even paved the way for civilization — they have made us who we are.  

"Fungi have a billion years of experience in doing the hard work of living.” Rob Dunn

Unlike plants, fungi don’t live on sunshine and air; they devour tissues, alive or dead. With powerful enzymes, fungi break down and digest things nothing else can. Their untapped powers could help our species to survive in our increasingly poisoned, depleted and warming planet. Fungi are nature's grand survivors, the most resourceful and successful of life forms. 

FROM THE FILM: What are fungi?

“Fungi are absolutely remarkable chemists. They make molecules that are frankly impossible for us to replicate in the lab” - Prof. Gerry Wright

Fungi Paved The Way For Humans To Evolve In The Aftermath Of A Deadly Asteroid Strike
Photographer Steve Axford Documents The Beauty of Fungi
This Bizarre Stinkforn Fungi Uses Its Foul Smelling Slime To Reproduce

In THE KINGDOM – HOW FUNGI MADE OUR WORLD reveals how fungi eked out life from barren rocks in hostile conditions and thrived despite facing the fiercest wars of Nature. Understanding how fungi survive the continuous onslaught of a microcosmos of voracious worms, predatory amoebas, bacteria, viruses and other fungi, novel drugs could be within our grasp. Fungi are being tested to treat cancer, Alzheimer disease, existential anxiety, depression and the next generation antibiotics. By looking at fungi in the context of evolution and natural history, scientists are making discoveries that will change our lives. Some fungi will save us, others will threaten us and we are just beginning to understand which is which.

THE KINGDOM – HOW FUNGI MADE OUR WORLD is a fascinating exploration of a spectacular yet little-known world with a series of pay-offs that can change our lives and future for better. This is natural history that matters.