Fungi: General characteristics and classification with examples

General characteristics and classification of fungi with examples

General characteristics of Fungi:

1. They doesn’t have chlorophyll pigment, thus their appearance is not green.

2. They exhibit heterotrophic mode of nutrition, thus they are not capable of making their own food and are completely dependent on other organisms for their, such as: Parasites.

3. They are saprotrophic too, thus they are also dependent upon dead and decaying matter for their food.

4. Their cell wall is mainly composed of chitin.

5. Along with the chitin, the cell wall of some fungi also have cellulose.

6. They may either be photophobic (i.e., they can live in darkness or in the absence of light) or photophilic (i.e., they can live in the presence of light).

7. Their body consists of either thread-like structure called mycelium or interwoven mass of mycelium forming a certain specific fungal tissue called pseudoparenchyma.

8. Mainly the reserve food material in them is glycogen.

9. They are eukaryotes.

10. They are generally in almost everywhere, such as: soil, water, air and even in plants and animal bodies.

11. They exhibit thallus-like body structure, thus their body structure is not well differentiated.

12. Vegetative body of fungus doesn’t have any vascular tissues.

13. The study of fungi is called Mycology.

14. Some examples of fungi are: Alterania, Aspergillus, Puccinia, Agaricus, etc.

Classification of fungi:

The 4 basic classifications of fungi are as follows:

i. Zygomycetes:

They are also called conjugation fungi. This class of fungi derived its name from a certain specific spores called as zygospores, which are formed due to the fusion of the protoplasts of two gametangia. They are generally terrestrial and are saprotrophic i.e., they feed on certain dead and decaying organic matter (even on the dung of different living organisms). The mycelium in them is well developed. Septa develops in the mature ones, but the young ones generally lacks septa. Example: Rhizopus, Mucor.

ii. Ascomycetes:

They are also called sac fungi. They contains a large part of the group fungi about 1700 genera and 15000 species. They show much complex characteristics and thus are referred to as higher fungi. It derived its name from a specialised asexual spores called ascospores which are produced by them. Ascospores formed, are usually 8 in numbers and are present within a distinct sac called ascus and so they are called ascomycetes. They have a septate mycelium, but the flagellated cells are completely absent in them. Although they are found in various habitats, but mainly they are present in terrestrial habitat. They exhibit saprotrophic mode of nutrition. Example: Saccharomyces.

iii. Basidiomycetes:

They are also called club fungi, the name due to the presence of their club-shaped reproductive organs called the basidium. They are commonly called mushroom group. They contain a very large group of fungi about 15000 species. They too show much complex characteristics and so are also referred to as higher fungi. It derived its name from a certain spores called as basidiospores. They mostly found in terrestrial habitat. They are either parasitic or saprotrophic. The fruiting bodies in them is called basidiocarps which may either be fleshy or woody. Example: Agaricus.

iv. Deuteromycetes:

They are also called fungi imperfecti as this class includes those fungi whose sexual stage is not known (or absent) i.e., they are imperfect. In perfect stage, all the sexual stages such as: zygospores, oospores, basidia, asci are formed and are easily identified. They reproduces by asexual means mainly through conidia formation. They are pathogenic and causes harmful diseases in human and animal. Example: Trichophyton.

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