Ever wondered about the amazing universe of the super fungi? Keep reading for more interesting facts about fungi!
Hey there, remember me?
My name is Joey and I’m a scientist who studies microscopic organisms. In Supernova Vol 5.4 we learnt about fungi, algae, bacteria, protozoa and viruses. Remember what they have in common? They’re all microorganisms!
In this blog post we’ll focus on fungi because they’re awesome and literally everywhere. Fungi can be found in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the soil we walk on. Fungi are awesome because they have so many unique characteristics that sometimes they seem like aliens. I like to think of them as superpowers.
Have you eaten any mushrooms with your meals lately? If so, then you ate fungi! Not all fungi are edible though. In fact, some species are poisonous! So only eat the ones that you know are safe.
This group of microbes is neat because most can produce spores. These are tiny single celled structures that can grow into enormous organisms. Their spores are so small that the wind can easily blow them around. How awesome is that superpower? Think about how fast you could grow and take over an area?
Did you know?
The largest living organism in the world is a fungus! The honey fungus (Armillaria) has been dubbed the ‘humongous fungus’ because it has been found to span hundreds of kilometers underground in the USA!
How can fungi be considered microorganisms if we can see them and eat them? Fungi consist of two types of microbes, yeasts and molds.
Yeasts are single celled, which means they are very small. They’re so small you need a microscope to see them (microscopic).
Molds, however, are filamentous. This means they form hair-like strands of cells, sometimes in the millions. These strands can cling tightly together to make compact structures such as mushrooms. Individually, these strands are called hyphae, but when they cling together, we call the mass mycelium. The humongous fungus is basically an enormous mycelium, able to grow and produce mushrooms and spores whenever conditions are right.
Extracellular digestion superpower
Another reason fungi are awesome is because they are the recyclers of life. Fungal species are heterotrophic, which means they break down organic matter for food (such as plants and plant materials like wood). This breakdown process recycles nutrients for other organisms, contributing to the food web. Fungi excretes enzymes to break down plant material and then absorbs the smaller products of digestion. They basically create tiny robots inside their cells and excrete them outside of their ‘bodies’ to break down plant organic materials into molecules they can absorb. What a cool superpower!
The fungi that use this superpower on dead plant material are called saprobes, but some fungi live off of living hosts as parasites or in mutualistic relationships. Parasites benefit and cause harm to their hosts, but in mutualistic relationships, both organisms benefit.
Mycorrhizae are a group of fungi that form mutualistic relationships with plants. The term mycorrhizae means ‘fungus-roots’. Fungi in this group help plants get extra nutrients and water from the soil in return for the products of photosynthesis that help the fungi grow.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the amazing universe of the super fungi!
This group of microbes is neat because most can produce spores. These are tiny, single-celled structures that can grow into enormous organisms. Their spores are so mall that the wind can easily blow them around, as for its superpower, once they spread they a grow and take over whatever area they are in! Isn’t that cool?