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Fungi Kingdom

Updated on September 25, 2014
Mushrooms are in the fungi kingdom.
Mushrooms are in the fungi kingdom. | Source

Fungi Kingdom: Information, Youtubes, Photos, and Other Resources

The Fungi Kingdom includes mushrooms, molds, yeasts, rusts, puffballs, truffles, morels, yeasts, and numerous other organisms. Some fungi are microscopic single-celled organisms while others are huge multicellular organisms! Have you seen mold growing on bread? That's a type of fungi. Yeast that we bake bread with is also a type of fungi.

Most people think of mushrooms as being plants, but they're not! Read on to find out more about mushrooms and other types of fungi!



The Fungi Kingdom

Mushrooms are not plants! Mushrooms are fungi.

We often think of mushrooms and other fungi as being plants because they do share several of the characteristics of plants, but they are not plants at all. Fungi have their own kingdom: The Fungi Kingdom.

As a review from previous biology lessons, all organisms are classified into one of three domains: archaea, bacteria, and eukaryote domains, and then into one of six kingdoms. The Kingdoms are Archaebacteria, Eubacteria, Protista, Fungi, Plantae, and Animalia.

Scientists categorize organisms based on their similarities. Some of the characteristics that are used to determine which category an organism goes into include cell type, metabolism, and means of reproducing.

Fungi are eukaryotic organsims. They need oxygen for metabolism. They absorb their nutrition from their environment.

A Bioluminescent Mushroom

Look how big this bioluminescent mushroom is!

A bioluminescent mushroom

Now that's a big mushroom!
Now that's a big mushroom! | Source

Although most mushrooms are not bioluminescent, the one above is. Bioluminescent means it gives off light. When it's dark outside, you can actually see some light coming from this mushroom! The gills of the mushroom are the most luminescent part. They give off a greenish light.

Below is a photo of a bioluminescent mushroom glowing in the dark.

A bioluminescent mushroom glowing.
A bioluminescent mushroom glowing. | Source

What's the difference between toadstools and mushrooms?

- Before you scroll any further down this page, why not take this fun one question quiz?

You'll find the answer farther down this page, but don't peek at the answer yet!


What do you think? What's the difference between toadstools and mushrooms?

See results

Did you know?

Despite their many similarities to plants, scientists believe that fungi are more closely related to animals than they are to plants!

Fungi

Characteristics of Fungi - The Fungi Kingdom includes mushrooms, yeasts, and molds.

Fungi share many characteristics with plants, but they are not plants. Fungi are not animals either.

  • Fungi are heterotrophic organisms. This is one of the characteristics that's different between plants and fungi. Plants are autotrophic, which means they make their own food. Plants have chlorophyll, a green pigment which they use in photosynthesis. Fungi do not have chlorophyll, which is why most fungi are not green.


  • The cell walls of fungi contain a substance called chitin. Chitin is the same tough substance that is found in the hard outer covering of insects. Plant cell walls, on the other hand, contain cellulose.


  • Fungi are made of long filaments which are woven together. These filaments are called hyphae. A mass of hyphae gets woven together into a mycellium


  • Although both plants and fungi engage in mitosis, there are some differences in the process. When mushrooms are undergoing mitosis, the nuclear envelope of the cells does not disintegrate as it does in plants. This causes spindle fibers to form inside the nucleus. The spindle fibers then pull the chromosomes to the opposite sides of the nucleus, instead of to the opposite sides of the cell as occurs in plants and most other eukaryotes.


  • Fungi use sporesto reproduce.


  • Fungi have an alternation of generations life cycle, just like plants.


  • Fungi are non-vascular, which means they don't have a transport system that carries water and nutrients throughout the organism.


  • Fungi digest their food before eating it! They do this by secreting enzymes onto their food then absorbing the nutrients.

The link above will take you to an animated slide show about fungi!

Fungi are heterotrophic....

....which gives them some extra freedom

Fungi are heterotrophic and therefore are not dependent upon the sun in order to eat (although most of the things that they eat are dependent upon the sun). This means that they can grow in dark places and can grow in any direction. They don't have to grow toward the sun like most plants do!

What's the difference between toadstools and mushrooms?

Here's where you'll find the answer to the quiz near the top of this page!

Toadstools and mushrooms are the same thing. There is no scientific difference. People often call the poisonous ones toadstools, but that is misleading as many types of organisms that are called mushrooms are poisonous.

A Poisonous Mushroom

Your mom taught you not to eat mushrooms you find outside, right? There's a good reason for that!

This mushroom can be fatal when eaten

A poisonous mushroom!
A poisonous mushroom! | Source

Many species of mushroom are poisonous to humans. Some only cause digestive problems. Others can cause allergic reactions, hallucinations, and even severe organ failure...and death. Oddly enough, one mushroom (the false morel) can be eaten when cooked, but is poisonous when eaten raw!

The Structures of Fungi

As mentioned earlier, fungi (except for yeasts) are made up of hyphae. Hyphae are long filaments.

Below is a photo of the mold Penicillium. The part labeled number one is a hypha.

Penicillium
Penicillium | Source


1. hypha 2. conidiophore 3. phialide 4. conidia 5. septa.

As hyphae grow, they branch off (almost like the branches or roots of trees) forming a mycelium.

Mycelium
Mycelium | Source

This is a mycelium. It's a group of hyphae that are all branching off one another like a tree.

You can find out more about the structure of fungi in the video below.

The Structure of Fungi

What is Mycology?

It's the study of fungi! Yes, there is a whole branch of science dedicated to studying fungi!

How do fungi eat?

They absorb their nutrients from their environment.

Fungi secrete enzymes that break down (digest) things such as leaves, branches, fruit, bread, and dead animals in their environment. The fungi are then able to absorb the broken down substance.

Instead of breaking down and absorbing dead things, some fungi act as parasites and live on or in other living things. Ringworm and some types of yeast (such as the yeast that causes thrush) are examples of parasitic fungi.

This is mold growing on a peach.

Here's a time lapse of mold growing on a peach. Watch what happens to the peach as the mold grows on it!

The images were taken about every 12 hours apart for a period of six days. Watch the peach....

Fungi - their growth and reproduction

Uses of Fungi

Although some fungi are undesirable to humans, some fungi are very useful to us!

Fungi can destroy many things, including paint, leather, cloth, food, and paper. It can also cause disease in humans.

Yet certain types of fungi are very useful for people. We use a type of fungi called yeast in cooking many types of breads. Some cheeses have a type of fungi in them. Camembert and Roquefort are examples of cheeses with fungi in them. Want to guess what the fungi in those types of cheese is? Penicillium! Many types of antibiotics are made of fungi too.

Fungi: Mushrooms, Toadstools, Molds, Yeasts, and Other Fungi

With beautiful photographs and interesting information about fungi!

Phylum of Fungi

Zygomycetes

Ascomycetes

Basidiomycetes

Chytridiomycota

Sporangium
Sporangium | Source

Zygomycetes: A phylum in the Fungi Kingdom

Zygomycetes, which is a phylum in the fungi kingdom, are organisms which grow spherical spores on the tips of hyphae.

Zygomycetes can reproduce both sexually and asexually. During the asexual part of their life cycle, spores are produced by a single organism and are then released and blown to new places by the wind.

During the sexual reproductive stage, two hyphae from two different organisms grow together, allowing their nuclei to fuse resulting in a zygosporangium. The newly formed zygotes then undergo meiosis and germinate, growing a spore producing sporangium which releases spores into the air.

Watch this animation of the life cycle of Zygomycetes

Animation of the life cycle of Zygomycetes

Note: Click the tab that says "animation" at the top of the page. Next click the button that says, "narrated" at the bottom.

Ascomycota - a phylum in the Fungi Kingdom

Ascomycota
Ascomycota | Source

Ascomycota are the "sac fungi." Spores of most species in this phylum are formed in a microscopic saclike structure called an ascus. These ascus usually form with the hypae of a cup-shaped structure.

Some examples of species in the Ascomycota phlum include truffles, morels, brewer's yeast and baker's yeast, cup fungi, Penicillium, and Dead Man's Fingers.

Basidiomycota - a phylum in the Fungi Kingdom

Puffballs
Puffballs | Source

Members of the Basidiomycota phylum include mushrooms, puffballs, stinkhorns, bracket fungi, jelly fungi (no, not jellyfish!), earth stars, smuts, bunts, rusts, mirror yeasts, and other organisms.

This phylum gets it's name from the club-shaped reproductive structure, called a basidia, that many species in this phlyum have.

Source

Chytridiomycota - the simplest and smallest organisms in the Fungi Kingdom

Most organisms in this division of fungi are aquatic and are found in fresh water or marine habitats. Some parasitic Chytridiomycota organisms live on plants or decaying insect bodies. Flagella enable the spores of organisms in the Chytridiomycota division to swim. None of the other phylum have fungi with flagella.

Water molds, which are found either in water or wet soil are an example of a Chytrid (an organism in the Chytridiomycota division of Fungi).

Another Chytrid called a Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis can kill amphibians and may be part of the reason for the decline in amphibians.

Symbiotic relationships that include fungi - Mutualism - where both partners in the relationship benefit from the other

Lichens Growing On A Wall
Lichens Growing On A Wall | Source

Fungi and plants, as well as fungi and algae, often form symbiotic, mutualistic relationships. The fungi helps provide minerals to the plant or algae, and the plant or algae provides carbohydrates it made during photosynthesis to the fungi.

  1. A mycorrhiza is a mutualistic relationship between fungi and the roots of plants. In some mycorrhiza, the hyphae of the fungi actually penetrate the roots of the plants. In other mycorrhizae, the hyphae wrap around the plant roots. In both cases, the fungi provide the plants with phosphorus and other minerals through the plants' roots. The plant, in turn, offers the fungi carbohydrates.


  2. Lichens are a combination of a fungus and a photosynthetic algae or cyanobacterium, working together. The photosynthetic algae or cyanobacterium is located in-between the layers of the hyphae! Lichens can grow in habitats that are difficult for many other species to inhabit. They can grow on bare rocks (and help to break the rocks down), on bare soil, on the trunks of trees, in deserts, and in the Arctic!

Characteristics of Fungi - Bozemanbiology (Paul Anderson) discusses the characteristics of fungi.

Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America - An excellent field guide for learning about Fungi!

Fungi Lab

Collect some fungi from your yard and look at it under a dissecting microscope or a magnifying glass. If you can find some mushrooms (or purchase some from the store), cut into them and look at the structures inside. Can you find the gills?

Can you find lichens on tree branches or tree trunks? How about a puffball?

"Fungi Kingdom" Guestbook - Comments? Questions?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Well presented and great pictures. I have a question.... Did you get the picture of that peach in my refrigerator?

    • audrey07 profile image

      audrey07 4 years ago

      Interesting! I also learned a new word today here... mycology. Now, I know it means the study of fungi.

    • profile image

      Didge 5 years ago

      Excellent lens Janiece, love it!

    • Paperquest5 profile image

      Paperquest5 5 years ago

      Janiece, you make things very interesting. This world and the life in it is amazing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Oh my, now you've gone and made fungi fun to, what a joy you are to learn from. I love the slideshow you did on that poor little peach. Done with amazing!

    • profile image

      Aboutlowercholesterol 5 years ago

      Great lens Janiece thanx for the info. It brought back memories of when I was in boarding school and the seniors had the priviilege of going out early on a weekend morning with the house master to pick edible mushrooms. I look forward to going that, but alas I left that school before I could have that experience......

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Fascinating. I take photos of mushrooms (and have a lens on that) but hadn't really studied up on them. I just like the way they look.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 5 years ago

      My favorite mushroom ~ the Morel. We used to hunt for them every spring back in Iowa. Oh so good!

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      Fascinating! Awesome lens.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      What an interesting lens! Blessed and featured on "Still Wing-ing it on Squidoo."

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

      Lots of great information here. I always wondered about the plant/animal thing.

    • olecrAN0N LM profile image

      olecrAN0N LM 5 years ago

      Wonderfully informative intro to the kingdom Fungi.

      Thank you! Fungi deserve more attention than they get, and you're helping to get the word out about how fascinating they are.

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 5 years ago

      Fascinating!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Another great resource in your biology series. That picture showing mold growing on a peach was very nicely done and an appropriate place on this lens. Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      very interesting. i liked it very much.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      "mold growing on a peach" is excellent ! Thanks.

    • Inkhand profile image

      Inkhand 5 years ago

      This lens is a fascinating introduction into the Fungi Kingdom.

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 5 years ago

      Interesting introduction to a fascinating subject.

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 5 years ago

      I love finding unusual mushrooms and photographing them. Great information here.

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