Fungi are eukaryotic organisms that lack the ability to carry on photosynthesis. Their nutritional modes reflect this fact. Their main role in nature is to act, along with the bacteria, as decomposers. Their external digestion of substrate materials allows them to breakdown or degrade organic materials. These materials can then be absorbed back into the fungi or into other plants. It is thought that most (over 80%) of plants have fungi that live in or around their roots. These fungi are known as MYCORRHIZAE.
Dependent on growth conditions, fungi exist as single cells known as YEAST or as threadlike tubular strands of cells called hyphae. Some of these hyphae ascend and support the spore producing structure. Fungi are classified into groups on the basis of their sexual reproductive structure, or lack of one. Other hyphae descend into the substrate and anchor and absorb materials for the fungi, acting in some ways like roots. The total mass of the hyphae make up the body of the moldlike fungus known as the MYCELIUM.
Four groups are currently recognized:
Use the links in the table below to learn more of the structure and function of the various organisms in the fungal groups.
See also pages 47-56 in A Photographic Atlas for the Biology Laboratory, 4th Edition.
Follow these links for a fun way to grow your own fungi at home. There are a number of factors, both physical and chemical that can easily be tested at home. Try two or three of these.
|Rhizopus asexual spores||Common Yeast||Basidia with spores||Aspergillus|
|Structural Overview||Ascus with 8 spores||Coral Mushroom(white)||Athlete's Foot fungus||Crustose form|
|bread mold |
|Giant Puffball||Predatory Fungus||Foliose type|
|Rhizopus sexual structure||Tasty Morels||Bracket or Shelf fungus||Ringworm - many sites||Structural Overview|
|Home Sweet Home||Salem's Mistake||Cryptococcus - Human Pathogen||Penicillium|
|All 3 types|