History of the Universe

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Fungi

As life developed, a large amount of dead material gathered at the bottom of lakes and oceans. Some eukaryotes 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 membrane.

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.

Fungal Diseases

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.

Fungal Benefits

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.

Fermentation 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.

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History of the Universe eBook
History of the Universe eBook
Only $2.99

Written by Wyken Seagrave
Copyright © 2017 Penny Press Ltd