Historically, fungi were included in the plant kingdom; however, because fungi lack chlorophyll and are distinguished by unique structural and physiological features i. In addition, fungi are clearly distinguished from all other living organisms, including animals, by their principal modes of vegetative growth and nutrient intake.
Fungi grow from the tips of filaments hyphae that make up the bodies of the organisms mycelia , and they digest organic matter externally before absorbing it into their mycelia. While mushrooms and toadstools poisonous mushrooms are by no means the most numerous or economically significant fungi, they are the most easily recognized. The Latin word for mushroom , fungus plural fungi , has come to stand for the whole group. Fungi other than mushrooms are sometimes collectively called molds, although this term is better restricted to fungi of the sort represented by bread mold.
For information about slime molds, which exhibit features of both the animal and the fungal worlds, see protist. Article Media. Info Print Print.
Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction Importance of fungi Form and function of fungi Size range Distribution and abundance Basic morphology Structure of the thallus Sporophores and spores Growth Nutrition Saprotrophism Parasitism in plants and insects Parasitism in humans Mycorrhiza Predation Reproductive processes of fungi Asexual reproduction Sexual reproduction Sexual incompatibility Sexual pheromones Life cycle of fungi Ecology of fungi Lichens Basic features of lichens Form and function of lichens Evolution and phylogeny of fungi Outline of classification of fungi Classification of the fungi Distinguishing taxonomic features Annotated classification Critical appraisal.
Characteristics of Fungi – Biology 2e
Saprotrophic fungi obtain their food from dead organic material and are ecologically useful decomposers. Parasitic fungi feed on living organisms usually plants , thus causing disease. To feed, both types of fungi secrete digestive enzymes into the nutritive surface on which they are growing. The enzymes break down carbohydrates and proteins , which are then absorbed through the walls of the hyphae. Some parasitic fungi also produce special absorptive organs called haustoria , to penetrate deeper into the living tissues of the host.
Read more below: Form and function of fungi: Nutrition.
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Read more below: Form and function of fungi: Sporophores and spores. Although this impression was not entirely wrong, fungi are so much more than that. They are also very beneficial organisms.
Introduction to Fungi
We have derived a number of useful antibiotics from them, including the "wonder drug" penicillin. Without fungi, we would not have leavened bread, Roquefort and Camembert cheeses, beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages and some mushrooms, morels and truffles are considered to be delicacies among gourmands. While these aspects of fungi are of interest, they will not be the emphasis on our discussions of fungi.
If you are interested in learning about these aspects of fungi, you may go to the Botany home page. The emphasis here, instead, will be to study the relationships of the various groups of fungi and attempt to make sense of their phylogeny.
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Once upon a time biologist only recognized two kingdoms: Plant and Animal this was how organisms were classified when I was an undergraduate. Fungi, as well as bacteria and algae were classified in the plant kingdom under this system and that is the reason that these organisms are traditionally studied in botany. Although fungi are no longer classified as plants, there is still good reason to study them in botany.
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Fungi are most often associated with plants, commonly as decomposers, and pathogens, and as their benefactors, e. Once upon a time, the fungi were also believed to be monophyletic and to be derived from an algal ancestor that lost its ability to photosynthesize. However, over time, with the discovery of new techniques in determining relationships between organisms, it was discovered that the fungi are made up of a polyphyletic group of organisms that, in some cases, are very distantly related to one another.
Thus, organisms that we call fungi are not grouped together because they are closely related, but rather because they share a combination of characteristics that we will now go over: Characteristics of "fung" in the broad sense Achlorophyllous : Fungi cannot make their own food like plants. They are heterotrophs and depend upon other organism for their carbon source. However, if the opportunity arises, some saprobes may become parasitic. Such organisms are said to be facultative parasites.
Symbiosis : In the strict sense, this term refers to the habitual "living together" of different species. As such, there are a number of different categories of relationships that may fit under this term.
However, we will define it in its most common usage: " The intimate association of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship, e. Eukaryotic : Fungi have membrane bound organelles, i. Once upon a time filamentous bacteria called Actinomycetes were classified with fungi, but this is no longer the case.
Introduction to Fungi Identification
Mycelium : The collective, filamentous strands that make up the fungal thallus. Strands of mycelium is referred to as hyphae sing. Mycelium may be of two types: Septate : Mycelium that is divided into discreet cells by cell walls that are laid down at regular intervals along the length of the mycelium. These cell walls are called septa sing. Coenocytic : Mycelium that is not divided up by septa and forms a continuous tubular network.
Septa, however, are present occasionally, especially where reproductive structures occur and where the cell wall of the mycelium has been compromised. Some species may have have thalli that are mycelium and yeast. The assimilative stage of the fungal body, i. In the strict sense organisms classified as fungi have cell walls composed primarily of chitin. However, we will be also be covering "fungi" that do not have chitin in their cell walls.
Fungi have a common nutritional mode: Absorption : The transport of food from their substrate into their cell walls. The following events occur in this mode of nutrition: If the available food that the fungus is using is soluble, i. If the available food is insoluble, i. Digestion is carried out by the production of various enzymes that are substrate specific and will break down insoluble food material to soluble compounds that can be transported through the cell wall. Although this appears to be very different from the way in which we animals digest food, it differs only in the sequence of events that takes place.
Where we ingest food and then digest it, fungi first digest their food before ingestion. Either sexual or asexual reproduction or both may occur by spores. However, in the strict sense as fungi are currently defined, only those organisms that produce nonmotile spores and gametes are classified as fungi. Nevertheless, we will be going over organisms that have motile spores, called zoospores , and motile gametes.
In summary then, the organisms that we call fungi represent a heterogenous group, i.