Click on image for full size
Though the outward appearance of many fungi may resemble plants
are probably more closely related to animals
Fungi are not capable of
performing photosynthesis, so must get their nourishment from other sources. Many fungi absorb organic matter directly from their immediate environment, such as in the soil. Many others feed on dead and decaying organisms and therefore have an important role in the recycling of nutrients in natural systems. Still others feed on living organisms. Athlete's foot is a common fungus which feeds on a living host - you!
When you think of fungi, you probably think of the mushrooms we can buy at the supermarket or hunt for in the woods. However, those "mushrooms" are really just the "fruiting bodies" produced by the fungus for reproduction and represent only a very small
part of a much larger organism which lives below the ground. Many species of soil-dwelling fungi, such as those that produce mushrooms, form intimate associations with tree roots and assist in absorbing nutrients from the environment in exchange for food
from the tree. Biologists are just beginning to understand and appreciate the role of these "mycorrhizal" fungi in natural ecosystems.
Fungi come in a wide variety of sizes and forms, and many have great economic importance. Tiny, one-celled yeasts are important for baking breads and fermenting wines, beers and vinegars. The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on several species of
fungi for the production of antibiotics, most notably, Penicillin, from a strain of Penicillium mold. If you leave your bread on the counter too long, you'll be able to observe a strain of the Penicillium mold for yourself!
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Spring 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
, focuses on the ocean, including articles on polar research, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and climate. Includes a gorgeous full color poster!
You might also be interested in:
Though not the largest kingdom, with a mere 300,000 species catalogued, many might argue that the Kingdom Plantae just may be the most important group of living organisms. In the process known as "photosynthesis",...more
Members of the Kingdom Protista are the simplest of the eukaryotes. Protistans are an interesting assemblage of organisms classified for what they are not. Protistans lack characteristics shared by plants,...more
The fight against climate warming has an unexpected ally: mushrooms growing in dry spruce forests covering Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and other northern regions, according to new research. Results of...more
Jupiter's atmospheric environment is one of strong gravity, high pressure, strong winds, from 225 miles per hour to 1000 miles per hour, and cold temperatures of -270 degrees to +32 degrees (freezing temperature)....more
In July, 1996, it was announced that Dr. David McKay, along with a team of scientists at Johnson Space Center (a division of NASA), had discovered possible fossils of bacteria in an ancient rock from Mars....more
Saturn's atmospheric environment is one of strong gravity, high pressure, strong winds, from 225 miles per hour to 1000 miles per hour, and cold temperatures of -270 degrees to +80 degrees. With winds...more
Titan's atmosphere is a lot like the Earth's, except that it is very cold, from -330 degrees to -290 degrees! Like the Earth, there is a lot of Nitrogen and other complex molecules. There also may be an...more