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What are Fungi?

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Last updated date: 05th Mar 2024
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Introduction - Fungi

Have you ever seen a mushroom? Have you ever wondered if a mushroom is a plant or what exactly it is? To which category do mushrooms belong? Let’s study in detail the category to which mushroom belongs. First let’s have a look at what exactly a mushroom looks like.


Mushrooms


Mushrooms 


Mushrooms are examples of fungi. Fungi can be defined as a  group of living organisms that are classified in their own kingdom. They are not green and do not have leaves or flowers.


Fungi are found throughout the earth including on land, in the water, in the air, and even in plants and animals. They vary widely in size and they have small to the largest size. We all have seen fungi in our life. For example, the appearance of black spots on bread left outside for many days is also fungi as shown below.


Black spot on Bread


Black spot on Bread


Characteristics of Fungi 

  1. Fungi are eukaryotic (not well developed and small in size).

  2. They get their food from other organisms.

  3. They do not possess chlorophyll like plants.

  4.  They reproduce through numerous pores rather than pollen or seeds.

  5.  They are usually not motile, that is they cannot actively move around.


Types of Fungi

There are 5 types of fungi: Chytridiomycota, Zygomycota, Glomeromycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota.

  • Chytridiomycota 

These are the organisms found in aquatic regions and are microscopic. They are usually asexual and produce spores that move around using flagella and also a small tail.

  • Zygomycota (Bread moulds)

Zygomycetes are mainly found on land and feed off plant or dead animal material. They also cause problems by growing on human food sources and they spoil the quality of food such as bread they also reproduce asexually through spores.

  • Glomeromycota

This type of fungi obtains sugars from the plant and in return dissolve minerals in the soil to produce the plant with nutrients, These fungi also reproduce asexually.

  • Ascomycota (Yeasts)

This type of fungi reproduces asexually and produces sexual spores. These are pathogens of plants and animals which are responsible for infections like ringworm which further causes vomiting. This type of fungi also affects the respiratory and female reproductive tract.

  • Basidiomycota

Basidiomycota is a broad and diversified phylum of fungi (kingdom Fungi) that contains rusts, jelly, smuts, and shelf fungi, as well as puffballs, mushrooms, and stinkhorns. Usually, Basidiomycota is hyphal-based filamentous fungi.


Difference between Fungi and Plants


Fungi

Plants

Fungi are eukaryotic heterotrophs.

Plants are eukaryotic autotrophs.

Fungi are not able to make their food and they depend upon the parasite for their food. They are called decomposers in an ecosystem.

Plants can make their food as they are considered producers in an ecosystem.

Fungi food is stored as glycogen.

Plant food is stored as starch.

Fungi lack the photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll so they do not perform photosynthesis.

Plants have different parts for support as well as they also perform photosynthesis.

Examples of plants include Coconut trees, Rose plants, etc.

Examples of fungi include Moulds, Mushrooms, etc.


Green Plants


Green Plants


Yellow-coloured Mushrooms


Yellow - Coloured Mushrooms


Importance of Fungi

  • Fungi are used in making different medicines such as in all antibiotic drugs as a fungus called Penicillium is used in drugs.

  • Fungi are very important to humans as they help in getting nutrients such as from mushrooms.

  • Fungi are important for animals as it is used in feed as antibiotics to increase the growth of animals.

  • Some fungi are used in food processing and they also constitute in the baking and brewing industry.

  • Fungi is mostly used across industries in various forms and stages of processes.


Interesting Facts About Fungi

  • Fungi can cure diseases.

  • Fungi can be deadly.

  • DNA studies show that there are thousands of different fungi in a sample of soil.

  • The largest living organism in the world is a mushroom.


Summary

Thus fungi make an important part of our ecosystem. There are many types of fungi found in nature such as Estes rusts, moulds, and mushrooms. There are a huge number of known species of organisms of the Kingdom fungi and it is used in households as well as in the production of beer and other products. Live examples of fungi are also seen in our house when things are left out for longer times. Some fungi are also seen on trees, rocks, and gardens. The mushrooms and the yeast cells are commonly used for the production of beer as well as bread. So here, we have discussed fungi fun facts, fungi characteristics, and the importance of fungi.

FAQs on What are Fungi?

1. Write some similarities between plants and fungi.

There are a few similarities also present between plants and fungi. Plants and fungi both are eukaryotes. Plants and fungi both cannot move from one place to another. Both plants and fungi have membrane-bound nuclei.

2. Is fungi a plant or animal?

Fungi are neither plants nor animals. The way they feed themselves is different from plants and animals. They do not perform the process of photosynthesis and do not chew food like animals.

3. What is the medicinal role of fungi?

Fungi is of great commercial importance. It is used as an antibiotic which is a substance produced by fungi, which is useful for the treatment of many diseases. Apart from curing diseases, antibiotics are also widely used when fed to animals for speedy growth and to improve meat quality. Furthermore, Penicillin is a widely used antibiotic produced from fungi. Thus we can say that fungi play a very important medicinal role.