Related topics: bacteria · microbes · plants · species · fungus

The origins of farming insects

A beetle bores a tree trunk to build a gallery in the wood in order to protect its lay. As it digs the tunnel, it spreads ambrosia fungal spores that will feed the larvae. When these bore another tree, the adult beetles will ...

Fungus creates a fast track for carbon

Tiny algae in Earth's oceans and lakes take in sunlight and carbon dioxide and turn them into sugars that sustain the rest of the aquatic food web, gobbling up about as much carbon as all the world's trees and plants combined.

Using fungal electrical activity for computing

Materials have a variety of properties that can be used to solve computational problems, according to studies in substrate-based computing.BZ computers, slime mold computers, plant computers, and collision-based liquid marbles ...

New norms needed to name never-seen fungi

What's in a name? The importance of accurate fungal taxonomy New Zealand's horticultural and agricultural economy relies on effective biosecurity. This requires keeping major pests and pathogens out of Aotearoa, as well as ...

Gut fungi: Unexpected source of novel chemicals

Anaerobic fungi, which die in the presence of oxygen, dwell in herbivore guts and help them digest their last leafy meal. In their evolutionary history, these fungi branched off early from aerobic fungi, which can breathe ...

Researchers unlock the secrets of fungal viruses: Why it matters

In the past year the world has been overwhelmed with rapidly emerging, important and fascinating information regarding SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The pace of learning has been astounding, not just for the ...

Fungi could manipulate bacteria to enrich soil with nutrients

A team of researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) has discovered a distinct group of bacteria that may help fungi and plants acquire soil nutrients. The findings could point the way to cost-effective and eco-friendly ...

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Fungus

Dikarya (inc. Deuteromycota)

A fungus (pronounced /ˈfʌŋɡəs/) is a eukaryotic organism that is a member of the kingdom Fungi (pronounced /ˈfʌndʒaɪ/ or /ˈfʌŋɡaɪ/). The fungi are a monophyletic group, also called the Eumycota (true fungi or Eumycetes), that is phylogenetically distinct from the structurally similar slime molds (myxomycetes) and water molds (oomycetes). Fungi are heterotrophic organisms that possess a chitinous cell wall, and most species grow as multicellular filaments called hyphae that form a mycelium; some species grow as single cells. Fungi reproduce sexually or asexually via spores, which are often produced on specialized structures or in fruiting bodies. Some fungi have lost the ability to form reproductive structures, and propagate solely by vegetative growth. Commonly known fungi include yeasts, molds, and mushrooms, which are general descriptions based on appearance and growth form that are often applied to groups of unrelated species. The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology, which is often regarded as a branch of botany, but fungi are genetically more closely related to animals than to plants.

Abundant worldwide, most fungi are invisible to the naked eye because of the very small size of their vegetative structures. They live mainly in soil, on dead matter, and as symbionts of plants, animals, or other fungi. They perform an essential role in decomposing organic matter in ecosystems and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange. Fungi may become noticeable when fruiting, either as mushrooms or molds. They have long been used as a direct source of food, such as mushrooms and truffles, as a leavening agent for bread, and in fermentation of various food products, such as wine, beer, and soy sauce. More recently, fungi have been used as sources for various enzymes important in industry and used in detergents, and, since the 1940s, for the production of antibiotics. Fungi are used as biological agents to control weeds and pests. Many species produce bioactive compounds called mycotoxins, such as alkaloids and polyketides that are toxic to animals including humans. The fruiting structures of a few species are consumed recreationally or in traditional ceremonies as a source of psychotropic compounds. Fungi can break down manufactured materials and buildings, and become significant pathogens of humans and other animals. Losses due to fungal diseases of crops (e.g., rice blast disease) or food spoilage can have a large impact on human food supplies and local economies.

The fungus kingdom encompasses an enormous diversity of taxa with varied ecologies and life cycle strategies, and morphologies ranging from amoeba-like protists and single-celled aquatic chytrids to large mushrooms. However, little is known of the true biodiversity of Kingdom Fungi, which has been estimated at around 1.5 million species, with about 5% of these having been formally classified. Ever since the pioneering 18th and 19th century taxonomical works of Carl Linnaeus, Christian Hendrik Persoon, and Elias Magnus Fries, fungi have been classified according to their morphology (e.g., characteristics such as spore color or microscopic features) or physiology. Advances in molecular genetics have opened the way for DNA analysis to be incorporated into taxonomy, which has sometimes challenged the historical groupings based on morphology and other traits. Phylogenetic studies published in the last decade have helped reshape the classification of Kingdom Fungi, which is divided into one subkingdom, seven phyla, and ten subphyla.

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