What is Fungi? | Types, Definition, Structure, Function & Facts

What is Fungi?

Fungi are a group of living organisms that are placed in their own kingdom. This means it is not about animals, plants or bacteria. Unlike bacteria, which have simple prokaryotic cells, fungi have complex eukaryotic cells like animals and plants.

Fungi are found everywhere on Earth, including on land, in water, in the air, and even in plants and animals. They vary greatly in size, from microscopic creatures to the largest creatures on Earth with a width of several square kilometers. There are more than 100,000 different species of fungi identified.

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How are fungi different from plants?

Fungi were once classified as plants. However, they differ from plants in two important ways: 1) the cell wall of fungi is made up of chitin rather than cellulose (plants) and 2) fungi do not make their own food like plants through the photosynthesis.

Characteristics of Fungi

They are eukaryotic organisms.

They obtain food by decomposing matter or ingesting their host in the form of parasites.

They don’t have plants like chlorophyll.

They reproduce through more spores than pollen, fruit, or seeds.

They are usually immobile, which means they cannot actively move.


Roles of Fungi

Food – Many types of mushrooms are used as food, such as straw mushrooms and truffles. Yeast, a fungus, is used when baking bread to help the bread rise and ferment the beverage.

Decomposition – Fungi play an important role in the decomposition of organic matter. This decomposition is necessary for many life cycles such as the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen cycles. By breaking down organic matter, fungi release carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen into the soil and atmosphere.

Medicine – Certain fungi are used to kill bacteria that can cause infection and disease in humans. They produce antibiotics such as penicillin and cephalosporins.

Types of Fungi

Scientists generally divide fungi into four groups: club fungi, molds, pocket fungi, and imperfect fungi. Some of the more common mushrooms that you may see or use on a daily basis are described below.

Mushrooms – Mushrooms are part of the club mushroom group. Mushroom is the fruiting body of a fungus. Some mushrooms are safe to eat and be used as food, while others are highly toxic. Never eat a mushroom that you find in the forest!

Mold – Mold is formed by filaments called mycelium. Mold tends to form on stale fruit, bread, and cheese. They sometimes look hairy as the mycelium grows upwards and releases more mold spores from their tips.

Yeast – Yeast are small, round, single-celled organisms. Yeast is important for raising bread.

Interesting Facts about Fungi

Scientists who specialize in the study of fungi are called mycologists.

The mushroom kingdom is more like the animal kingdom than the plant kingdom.

The word “mushroom” is a Latin word meaning “mushroom”.

It is estimated that there are at least 1.5 million different species of fungi.

The top part of the mushroom is called the cap. The small plates under the lid are called gills.

The fungus Trichoderma is sometimes used in the process of making faded jeans.