As life developed, a large amount of material gathered at the bottom of lakes and . Some evolved to feed on this dead matter. We call one of them a fungus, two or more are fungi (‘fun-guy’ or ‘fun-jee’).
Mycelium image courtesy of Bob Blaylock
The fungi evolved a special way of living together. A network of tubes (called a mycelium) ran through the rotting material. Within these tubes lived many cells of the fungi sharing a single .
Fungi are important in decomposing dead plants and animals. The parts of the fungus we sometimes see above ground (the mushrooms for example) are only the spore-forming parts of a much larger fungus. Most of it is underground, in wood or in whatever the fungus is feeding on.
Early fungi seem to have left no fossils, but we guess that they first appeared around 1000 mya.
Fungi not only feed on dead matter. They can also invade live plants and animals. Fungal diseases affect many of our crops, as well as causing human diseases such as athlete’s foot, dermatitis, and ringworm.
Along with the bacteria, fungi are the main decomposers of dead matter. If they did not decompose and re-cycle the carbon atoms in dead matter, very soon there would be no carbon left and life on Earth would stop.
by yeast is used in brewing and bread making. Fungi also produce chemicals called antibiotics which kill some bacteria. These chemicals are used as medicines.
eBook only $2.99
398 pages, 300 images
"I find the science fabulous...an extremely useful teaching tool."
Professor David Christian
Become a Citizen of the Universe
and get your free badge!