What's growing on this orange?
Mold, of course! Did you know that mold is a type of fungus? There are many different types of fungi besides molds, however.
Scientists used to think that fungi were members of the plant kingdom. They thought this because fungi had several similarities to plants. For example:
- Fungi and plants have similar structures.
- Plants and fungi live in the same kinds of habitats, such as growing in soil.
- Plants and fungi both have a cell wall, which animals do not have.
How Fungi and Plants Differ
However, there are a number of characteristics that make fungi different from plants:
- Fungi cannot make their own food like plants can, since they do not have chloroplasts and cannot carry out photosynthesis. Fungi are more like animals because they are heterotrophs. They have to obtain their food from outside sources.
- The cell walls in many species of fungi contain chitin. Chitin is tough carbohydrate found in the shells of animals such as beetles and lobsters. The cell wall of a plant is made of cellulose, not chitin.
- Unlike many plants, most fungi do not have structures that transfer water and nutrients.
The Types of Fungi
The Kingdom Fungi can be broken down into several phyla. Each phyla has some unique traits. And even within the same phyla there are many differences among the fungi. Various types of fungi are pictured below (Table below). Notice how different each of these organisms are from one another.
Type of Fungi
chitin: Tough carbohydrate found in the shells of animals and cell walls of fungi.
heterotroph: Organism which obtains carbon from outside sources.
- Fungi are no longer classified as plants.
- Although fungi have cell walls like plants, the cell walls are made of chitin instead of cellulose.
- Types of fungi include molds, yeasts, and mushrooms.
Use the resources below to answer the questions that follow.
- How many of the existing fungi do scientist feel they have identified?
- What are the characteristics of Chrytid fungi?
- What are the characteristics of Zygomycetes?
- What are the characteristics of Basidiomycetes?
- What are the characteristics of Ascomycetes?
- Compare and contrast the four above groups of fungi. How are they the same? How do they differ?
- In what kind of habitats do you find Ascomycete fungi?
- How large is their fruiting body?
- Do you think you can find Ascomycerte in marine environments? Why or why not?
- What characteristics do scientists use to distinguish between different species of fungi?
- What do plants and fungi have in common?
- How are fungi more like animals than plants?