Types of Fungi

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Fungi are eukaryotic organisms(meaning that they have DNA which is enclosed in a nucleus) which have cell walls and can be either unicellular(one cell) or multicellular(many cells). There are over 100,000 species of organisms that fall under the realm of fungi. However, there are only four categories to which these all belong. Fungi are characterized as organisms which can live as parasites (one organism lives off another organism, one receives no benefits), as symbionts (one benefits, the other may or may not) or as a saprobe (fungi lives off dead matter). Fungi absorb their food from substances such as soil, wood, plants and decaying matter. They are important in many ways, one of which is because of their ability to decompose dead plant and animal matter.

The first type of fungi is a very common one that most people are familiar with and that is the Zygomycota, more commonly known as bread molds. Most of these types of molds are saprophytes who live off dead plants or animals. They reproduce sexually even though they have no distinguishable male or female features.

The second type of fungi is Ascomycota, another one people should be familiar with. This type of fungi includes yeasts, powdery mildews and blue-green and black molds. Yeasts are a type of unicellular fungi, molds multicellular. Certain types of fungi in this category are responsible for the plant diseases, such as Dutch Elm and chestnut blight. Ascomycota fungi have a complex life cycle which consists of both sexual and asexual reproduction.

The third type of fungi is the Basidiomycota. This includes another familiar type, the mushroom. These mushrooms are both the edible and non-edible kind. In addition to mushrooms, this type of fungi includes: puffballs, jelly fungi and bracket fungi. Also found in this type is Crytococcus, pathogenic fungi found in humans. Basidiomycota reproduce through sexual spores known as basidiospores.

The final type of fungi is known as Deuteromycota and is made up of miscellaneous assortments. These are fungi that don't fit neatly into any other category. These fungi are also known as fungi imperfecti, fungi which are used to create Roquefort (blue) cheese and Camembert cheese. This type of fungi adds flavor to our foods. These fungi also produce penicillin. Deuteromycota have been found as an asexual stage in various other fungal groups, and are known to cause disease in both plants and animals.

Fungi perform many important functions. These include breaking down of plant and animal waste and the recycling of carbon. Fungi have also been useful in the making of antibiotics and hormones. On a more negative note, some fungi can cause toxins in food and cause agricultural damage. All in all, fungi are an interesting group of organisms, which can be both beneficial and detrimental to humans, plants and animals.

As you can see, fungi are quite diverse. They come in all shapes and sizes and can range from microscopic individual cells, to ones so large, that their cells can be miles long.

More about this author: Wendy R.

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