Probably less known than the Animalia and Plantae kingdoms, the Fungi kingdom includes a wide variety of species of living things, commonly known as mushrooms. They share some common characteristics and others more specific to the species or subgroup to which they belong. With complex life cycles and very restrictive environmental conditions for optimal growth, the members of the Fungi kingdom are truly surprising and interesting organisms. Abundant in the rainforests of the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and predominantly during the autumn months, fungi colonize moist soils, tree trunks, and other substrates. Others, on the other hand, coexist with human beings in industrialized and pharmacological environments.
If you want to learn more about these fascinating organisms and introduce yourself to mycology (the science of studying fungi), continue reading this interesting AgroCorrn article about the Fungi kingdom: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples .
What is the Fungi kingdom – definition
The Fungi or Mycota kingdom , commonly known as the kingdom of true fungi (Eumycotas domain), constitutes, together with the Animalia kingdom , the Planate kingdom , the Protista kingdom and the Monera kingdom , the taxonomic kingdoms of biological evolution or the 5 kingdoms of nature that encompass each and every one of the different forms of life that exist on Earth.
The kingdom Fungi includes all eukaryotic organisms that belong to the classification of fungi. The diversity of life forms and morphological structures that fungi present makes the Fungi kingdom a group brimming with truly spectacular biodiversity.
In the next sections we will see many of the main characteristics of fungi , as well as their classification and some examples to differentiate them and get to know them more closely.
Characteristics of the Fungi kingdom
Since they appeared on the face of the Earth, the organisms of the Fungi kingdom have developed numerous and diverse characteristics that allow them to adapt to some of the strangest and most surprising environments in nature. Let’s see below a list of the main characteristics of mushrooms or the Fungi kingdom :
- They are heterotrophic organisms, that is, they acquire their nutrients from outside.
- They have a resistant cell wall composed of chitin, which in many cases, prevents them from drying out or suffering other inconveniences related to environmental conditions.
- They reproduce by means of spores, counting on specific anatomical structures for their production, such as asci (containing ascospores) and basidia (with basidiospores). In fungi, reproduction can be as asexual (without the formation of a fruiting body) as it is sexual. Learn more about it in this other post about What are spores .
- There is an immense variety of shapes, colors and sizes in mushrooms.
- In its structure, what is commonly called the “true body of the fungus” is called the mycelium and is made up of long filaments, the hyphae. On the other hand, the most visible and well-known parts of these organisms are usually their “fruiting bodies”, responsible for producing spores for sexual reproduction.
- Regarding their forms of growth, some fungi do it in the form of a “shelf” on tree trunks, others instead grow as “cups”, or even in the form of a “star”.
Classification of the Fungi kingdom
According to the morphology of the fructifications or fruiting bodies that the fungi present, these are classified into the 5 large groups of the Fungi kingdom :
- Basidiomycetes: fungi with basidiospores and mushroom-shaped fruiting bodies.
- Ascomycetes: these fungi contain ascospores within the reproductive structures called asci.
- Glomeromycetes: the main characteristic that defines this group of fungi is the formation of mycorrhizae, structures that establish an interspecific symbiotic relationship with plants, also having glomerospores.
- Zygomycetes: it is the group of those commonly known as molds, which includes around 1000 species. Its spores are called zygospores.
- Chitridiomycetes: this last group of the current classification of fungi includes all those microscopic organisms of the Fungi kingdom, with zoospores or flagellated gametes as reproductive cells.
After knowing all these details, including the classification of the most common mushrooms , let’s go on to see in the next section some of the most common and characteristic examples of mushroom species, many of which you know for their nutritional and medicinal properties.
Examples from the Fungi kingdom
Beyond the well-known and tasty mushrooms ( Agaricus bisporus) , the Fungi kingdom includes a wide variety of mushrooms. Here are some examples from the Fungi kingdom or examples of mushrooms :
- Penicillium citrinum : grapevine fungus used to obtain wines.
- Saccharomyces cerevisiae : yeast from beer and bread making (albeit from different strains).
- Molds of the genus Penicillium: production of blue cheese.
Examples of Basidiomycetes
- Cow’s tongue ( Hydnum repandum ): an edible mushroom.
- Trumpet of the Dead ( Craterellus cornucopioides ): an edible mushroom (the one in the image below).
- Judas ear ( Auricularia auricula judae ): an edible mushroom.
- Puffball ( Lycoperdon perlatum ): an edible mushroom, but only when it is white in color.
- Gallipierno ( Macrolepiota procera ): is an edible mushroom and is the largest mushroom in Spain.
- Fly swatter mushroom ( Amanita muscaria ) and panther amanita ( Amanita pantherina): they are very poisonous, even deadly.
- Trametes versicolor : grows on tree trunks and is widely used in TCM or traditional Chinese medicine.
- Vermilion tinder fungus ( Pycnoporus sanguineus ): on tree trunks in tropical areas.
- Earth star (Geastrum saccatum ): has a star-shaped growth and is an inedible mushroom.
Importance of fungi
Within natural ecosystems, fungi play a fundamental role in the correct balance of biological communities , since they are the decomposing organisms par excellence, thus allowing a correct recycling and maintenance of energy and organic and inorganic elements of the ecosystem. To understand this better, we recommend reading these other two AgroCorrn articles about the Ecosystem in equilibrium: what it is and how it is maintained and What are the decomposing living beings with examples .
On the other hand, in anthropic ecosystems, human beings maintain a very close relationship with fungi in our day-to-day lives, since we use them in obtaining beverages (wines and beers) and food (cheeses and bread), taking advantage of their biochemical and metabolic properties, as well as its direct consumption (in the case of mushrooms and other edible fungi). They also stand out for their use within the world of medicine and drugs, since numerous antibiotics and active ingredients useful to fight diseases are obtained from the immunosuppressive and anti-epidemic properties of fungi. Other times, instead, fungi act as one of the pathogensmost feared for the health of people, animals and plants, as well as with poisonous and hallucinogenic properties. Learn here more about Antibiosis: its definition and examples and the relationship of this concept with fungi.
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