Difference Between Fungi And Lichens

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Fungi and Lichens

Our natural ecosystem is made up of countless organisms. Some of them are also invisible to the naked eye. The flora and fauna of an ecosystem are so diverse that it incorporates billions of organisms which are part of an ecosystem and participate in it. A circular flow of nutrients takes place constantly in nature and all these organisms are critical for each other’s survival. An ecosystem comprises of autotrophs, which make their own food and heterotrophs, which are dependent on others to obtain food. However, sometimes, organisms also live together in a relationship with each other. This relationship can be parasitic, symbiotic or mutualistic in nature.

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Fungi are heterotrophic organisms which are eukaryotes. Fungi often exist in a symbiotic relationship with cyanobacteria such as green algae to form lichens. Fungi provide an anchor to the organism by providing protection and collecting nutrients, whereas, the algae prepares food for the fungi by the process of photosynthesis. Let us discuss the key points of difference between fungi and lichens.

Difference Between Fungi and Lichens

Fungi and lichens are organisms that are part of natural ecosystems. Fungi are heterotrophs and exist freely in nature but sometimes fungi and algae come together and get in a symbiotic relationship with each other. The algae part provides food and the fungi parts gives protection and collects nutrients from the environment. Before studying the points of difference between fungi and lichen, let us look at both of the organisms in detail. 

  • Fungi

Fungi are multicellular organisms that are heterotrophic in nature. Heterotrophs are those organisms who cannot make their own food. Fungi are eukaryotic in nature, which means they have cell organelles like a nucleus. Fungi are essential to the smooth functioning of the natural ecosystem. Mycology is the term for the study of fungi. Fungi can reproduce by sexual and asexual modes of reproduction.

Yeast is single-celled fungi. Fungi also alternate between single and multicellular organisms depending upon the life cycle stage. Multicellular fungi have hyphae, which are tubular filament-like structures. The cell walls of fungi are made up of chitin, which is a hard substance commonly found in the exoskeletons of insects.

Fungi use the filament-like outgrowths to obtain food. Fungi can thrive in most environmental conditions and can obtain its food even from dead and decaying matter. This is the reason why fungi are essential to the natural ecosystem. Fungi clean up the dead and decaying matter by breaking it down. Also, fungi participate in symbiotic relationships with green algae to form lichens.

  • Lichens

Lichens are complex organisms arising out of a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus. Fungus, being the dominant partner, gives lichens most of its characteristics. Any one or both green algae and blue-green algae can be present in lichens. The fungus part provides protection and collects moisture and nutrients so that the algae can photosynthesize and makes food for the fungus needed for its growth.

Lichens can be found in a variety of habitats. Lichens are commonly found on tree barks, rocks, gravestones, walls etc. Lichen is often confused with moss. Even though lichen and moss are non-vascular plants, only mosses are plants. According to estimates, around 6-8% or landmass is covered with lichens.

Lichens are also of importance to human beings owing to the fact that they absorb pollutants from the atmosphere. Also, lichens make the study of pollutants in the air easier. Scientists can test the presence of pollutants in the air with the help of lichens. Lichens also have economic importance.

What is the Difference Between Fungi and Lichens?

Fungi and lichens are organisms that are abundant in our ecosystem. Both organisms have important functions in the ecosystem. Fungi clean up the ecosystem by breaking down dead and decaying matter whereas lichens absorb pollutants from the atmosphere.

 The point of difference between fungi and lichens are given below:



Fungi are most commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Lichens thrive in temperate and colder climates.

Fungi commonly grow in shady, dark and moist places.

Lichens grow freely when exposed to air and light.

Fungi are heterotrophic in nature.

Lichens are a product of a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae.

Fungi feed on dead and decaying matter.

Lichens can survive in harsh climatic conditions.

Fungi are usually colourless.

Lichens are colourful due to the presence of acids in them.

Examples- moulds, yeast etc.

Examples- Iceland moss.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Explain the Mode of Nutrition in Lichens.

Ans: Fungi and cyanobacteria like algae come together in a symbiotic relationship and exist in harsh conditions. They do not have roots like plants to absorb nutrients and water but they still make their own food by the process of photosynthesis. The fungi part provides the organisms with most of its characteristics. Its function is to act as an anchor and provide protection to the organism. Also, it absorbs nutrients and moisture from nature. The algae part uses these nutrients absorbed by the fungi to prepare food for the organism by the process of photosynthesis. The relation is not mutualistic because the algae part gives up most of the sugars produced.

Q2. Explain the Different Types of Symbiotic Relationships Between Organisms.

Ans: The ecosystem contains billions and billions of organisms. These organisms often interact with each other and share or compete for resources. Mainly, there are five main types of symbiotic relationship:

  1. Mutualism - In mutualism, both the species benefit from each other.

  2. Commensalism- Commensalism is the relationship where one species survives or lives with the help of a host, who doesn’t benefit from the relationship but is neither harmed.

  3. Predation- A predator species hunts and kills the other species, it’s prey.

  4. Parasitism- A parasite lives on the host species. The host species is not killed instantly but does weaken over time.

  5. Competition- Competition defines the competition between the same or different species for the limited amount of resources available.