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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • List the characteristics of fungi
  • Describe fungal parasites and pathogens of plants and infections in humans
  • Describe the importance of fungi to the environment
  • Summarize the beneficial role of fungi in food and beverage preparation and in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry
Part a shows a cluster of mushrooms with bell-like domes attached to slender stalks. Part b shows a yellowish-orange fungus that grows in a cluster and is lobe-shaped. Part c is an electron micrograph that shows a long, slender stalk that branches into long chains of spores that look like a string of beads.
The (a) familiar mushroom is only one type of fungus. The brightly colored fruiting bodies of this (b) coral fungus are displayed. This (c) electron micrograph shows the spore-bearing structures of Aspergillus , a type of toxic fungi found mostly in soil and plants. (credit a: modification of work by Chris Wee; credit b: modification of work by Cory Zanker; credit c: modification of work by Janice Haney Carr, Robert Simmons, CDC; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

The word fungus comes from the Latin word for mushroom. Indeed, the familiar mushrooms are fungi, but there are many other types of fungi as well ( [link] ). The kingdom Fungi includes an enormous variety of living organisms collectively referred to as Eumycota, or true fungi. While scientists have identified about 100,000 species of fungi, this is only a fraction of the over 1 million species likely present on Earth. Edible mushrooms, yeasts, black mold, and Penicillium notatum (the producer of the antibiotic penicillin) are all members of the kingdom Fungi, which belongs to the domain Eukarya. As eukaryotes, a typical fungal cell contains a true nucleus and many membrane-bound organelles.

Fungi were once considered plant-like organisms; however, DNA comparisons have shown that fungi are more closely related to animals than plants. Fungi are not capable of photosynthesis: They use complex organic compounds as sources of energy and carbon. Some fungal organisms multiply only asexually, whereas others undergo both asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction. Most fungi produce a large number of spores that are disseminated by the wind. Like bacteria, fungi play an essential role in ecosystems, because they are decomposers and participate in the cycling of nutrients by breaking down organic materials into simple molecules.

Fungi often interact with other organisms, forming mutually beneficial or mutualistic associations. Fungi also cause serious infections in plants and animals. For example, Dutch elm disease is a particularly devastating fungal infection that destroys many native species of elm ( Ulmus spp.). The fungus infects the vascular system of the tree. It was accidentally introduced to North America in the 1900s and decimated elm trees across the continent. Dutch elm disease is caused by the fungus Ophiostoma ulmi . The elm bark beetle acts as a vector and transmits the disease from tree to tree. Many European and Asiatic elms are less susceptible than American elms.

In humans, fungal infections are generally considered challenging to treat because, unlike bacteria, they do not respond to traditional antibiotic therapy since they are also eukaryotes. These infections may prove deadly for individuals with a compromised immune system.

Questions & Answers

Species A has 12 pairs of chromosomes and Species B has 11 pairs of chromosomes. Explain what occurs during mitosis and during meiosis in the hybrid that allows normal development and growth from zygote to adult, but causes the adults to be sterile.
Christina Reply
Why does water move through a membrane?
Christina Reply
How many bones are in the human skeleton
Treasure Reply
203
Oyeleke
procce of digestion of proteins a long human alimentarycanal
Carson Reply
what are the properties of lipids?
Isiah Reply
They are: Fatty acids, fats, oils, waxes, phospholipid, glycolipids, steroids and some vitamins
Rachel
explain why a fresh water fish excrete ammonia
Leonard Reply
plz answer my question
Leonard
sorry i meant it has a nucleous unlike plant cells lol
Lailah
Ammonia is the end product of protein catabolism and is stored in the body of the fish in high concentrations relative to basal excretion rates. Ammonia, if allowed to accumulate, is toxic and is converted to less toxic compounds or excreted
Rachel
What are eukaryotic cells?
Nwosueke Reply
cell with no nucleous so not a plant cell
Lailah
eukaryotic cells are membrane bound organelles that have a membrane bound nucleus
ojeen
where does the cell get energy for active transport processes?
A'Kaysion Reply
IDK maybe glucose
Lailah
what is synapsis
Adepoju Reply
how many turns are required to make a molecule of sucrose in Calvin cycle
Amina Reply
why Calvin cycle occurs in stroma
Amina
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide?
Maryam Reply
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide? For the purpose of breaking down the food
dil
what is allele
uzoka Reply
process of protein synthesis
SANTOSH Reply
what is cell
Zulf Reply
a cell is a smallest basic, structural and functional unit of life that is capable of self replication
Lucas
why does a fresh water fish excrete ammonia
Leonard
plz answer my question
Leonard
Ammonia is a toxic colorless gas and when its inside the fish biological system is converted to a less toxic compound then excreted in the form of urea. However too much ammonia will kill the fish " Ammonia Poisoning " which is a very common disease among fish.
This
what is cytoplasm
uzoka Reply
cytoplasm is fluid of cell.
Deepak

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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