Shop Windows to the Universe

The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is in our online store, filled with Earth and space science resources.
Lactarius deliciosus
Click on image for full size
Corel Photography

Kingdom Fungi

Though the appearance of many fungi may resemble plants, they 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 nutrients directly from t he 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 special structures called "fruiting bodies" produced by the fungus for reproduction. The rest of the fungus (and the biggest part) lives below the ground.

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. Many medicines are produced with the help of fungi, most notably, the antibiotic, Penicillin. If you leave your bread on the counter too long, you'll be able to observe a relative of the Penicillium mold for yourself!

Last modified January 19, 2010 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

"Science, Evolution, and Creationism", by the National Academies, provides fascinating background on these topics for all, and is particularly useful for the Earth and space science classroom. Check our other books in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Kingdom Plantae

Kingdom Plantae contains almost 300,000 different species of plants. It is not the largest kingdom, but it is a very important one! In the process known as "photosynthesis", plants use the energy of the...more

In Alaska's Forests, Dried Mushrooms to the Rescue?

A group of scientists is trying to learn more about how forests cycle carbon so they can more accurately predict climate change and global warming. To do this, they conducted a study in a northern forest...more

Can there be Life in the Environment of Jupiter?

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

The possible discovery of Life on Mars

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 a meteorite named ALH84...more

The Environment of Saturn

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

Can there be Life in the Environment of Titan?

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

Autotrophs

Autotrophs are organisms that can "make their own food" from an inorganic source of carbon (carbon dioxide) given a source of energy. Most autotrophs use sunlight in the process of photosynthesis to make...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA