What are mushrooms?
Fungi are living beings belonging to the fungi kingdom: molds, yeasts, and mushrooms. This set of living beings can be considered an intermediate kingdom between plants and animals, from which it was separated more than a million years ago, since its members lead immobile and insensitive lives like plants, but have heterotrophic nutrition like animals. that is, they consume organic matter to survive.
Fungi were not always fully understood, and until recently, many things that were considered plants turned out to mushroom, and many of those that were considered mushrooms turned out to be something else. This is partly because the kingdom of fungi presents an immense diversity, with poly cellular individuals of macroscopic size, and with beings perceptible only through the microscope.
Fungi exist in virtually all habitats, including some underwater, and around 100,000 different species are currently known, out of the estimated over a million total species on planet Earth. Many of them are of immense use in industry, especially yeasts, both in gastronomy and in pharmacology, and many others, on the other hand, cause diseases in people and animals.
The branch of biology that studies fungi is mycology.
Characteristics of mushrooms
The fungi constitute an entire kingdom, whose general characteristics can be summarized as follows:
- They are eukaryotic living beings, evolutionarily closer to animals than to plants.
- They lack mobility and senses, like plants, but unlike them, they do not have autotrophic nutrition (photosynthesis or chemosynthesis), but rather consume available organic matter (heterotrophic nutrition). But unlike animals, they cannot ingest food, they must absorb it.
- The cells of fungi have a cell wall (to the well as plant cells ), but instead, consist of cellulose, are composed of chitin, the same substance used by many animals for their covers and shells.
- They can be unicellular and microscopic, or multicellular and macroscopic, depending on the species, and inhabit very different habitats, terrestrial or underwater, or also parasitize the bodies of plants and animals.
- They generally occupy an ecological decomposing niche, that is, detritophagus, they help to decompose the waste organic matter.
- They usually form symbiotic associations with algae and plants, thus giving rise to lichens.
- They serve as food for many species of animals, including humans.
Reproduction of fungi
The fungi reproduce through spores, which are resistant forms to the environment capable of persisting, waiting for the moment when the conditions are conducive to germination. These spores can be produced sexually or asexually, in organs known as sporangia, and are released into the environment, where wind, water, and other environmental factors help to disperse them.
Types of mushrooms
The classification of fungi has varied greatly over time, as more and better is known about these particular living things. In general, the following five main types of fungi are differentiated:
- Basidiomycetes ( Basidiomycota ), fungi that develop mushrooms, from which the spores of the fungus are born.
- Ascomycetes ( Ascomycota ), fungi that instead of mushrooms have asci, which are spore-producing sex cells.
- Glomeromycetes (Glomeromycota), known as mycorrhizae, that is, symbiotic unions between a fungus and the roots of a plant, in which water and nutrients are exchanged for carbohydrates that the fungus cannot synthesize.
- Zygomycetes ( Zygomycota ), molds capable of forming zygospores, that is, spores that remain active for a long time until they can finally germinate.
- Chitridiomycetes ( Chytridiomycota ), microscopic and primitive fungi, generally aquatic, whose spores are flagellated (zoospores), that is, capable of their movement.
Fungi are not only capable of defending themselves through poisons and toxins (some of them hallucinogenic), capable of causing harm or death in animals that eat them, but they are also possible causes of diseases, especially yeasts and other fungi microscopic.
These fungal conditions are most treatable, and in some cases, they are transmissible, as is the case with Candida albicans (responsible for sexually transmitted candidiasis). Another common cause is the so-called “athlete’s foot” ( Tinea pedis ) that lodges in the skin, as a result of continuous conditions of humidity, a product of sweating. For these types of conditions, there are antifungal medications.
What are mushrooms? Characteristics, and Types