Read some interesting facts about fungi below.
1. Primary Decomposer – Eco friendly Organism
Fungi are the primary agents and the major contributors in Global Carbon Cycle and bio-degradation or decomposition of dead plants, animal and wood debris. On an average, about EIGHTY- FIVE BILLION tons of carbon in the form of Carbon Dioxide is returned annually to the atmosphere mainly by fungi. They remain active in winter and at low temperature (as low as -7 degree Celsius) where other decomposers (e.g. bacteria) shut down. Although the process of degradation by fungi is slow. It will take almost 100 or even more years for fungi to decompose a hardwood trunk.
(Note: In order to prevent food from fungal decay, you have to store it on temperature lower than -18 C, as they remain active on below zero temperature)
2. The Oldest & Largest Living Organism On the Earth
Fungi are one of the oldest organisms existing on the earth. Their 545 million years old fossils are found in Russia. They are not just one of the oldest species but the largest organism on the earth as well. Yes, it seems strange but true, Fungi are the largest organism on the Earth. Armillary ostoyae (discovered in 1998) occupies 2, 384 acres or 10 square Km (equal to 1665 football fields) weigh about 605 matric tons , hold the record as the Earth largest organism. Armillaria ostoyae is not just the largest but the oldest living creature on the earth, which is on an estimate, 24,000 to 8650 years old.
3. The Fastest Living Organism as Well
The fastest living organism on the earth is fungi. Hat throwing fungi distempers and ejects their spores at a remarkable speed which is 100 to 200 times faster than the speed of sound. The spores have enough force to pull a 20 G object. Human eyes are unable to detect the speed of fungi spores ejection with unaided eyes; scientists recorded the speed of fungal spores being ejected with an ultra high speed camera and slow down the frame rate 10,000 times to be able to see them.
4. Neither Plants Nor Animal, The Belong to Kingdom Fungi
Fungi can be unicellular (yeast), multi-cellular (molds, mushrooms) or dimorphic (both forms). They resemble somewhat to the cells of plants (as they have cell wall around their cells) and animals (as they don’t have chlorophyll and water vacuole). On other hand, some of their characteristics are quite different from animals and plants, thus they have their own kingdom.
5. Fungi – Parasitic enemy, Mutualistic Friends
Fungi, unlike plants and some bacteria, don’t have chlorophyll in their cell bodies, thus unable to make nutrition by their own. They get nourishment by many ways including Parasitic activity with their host as they can parasites human and other plants, Symbiosis or mutualistics association with plants where they attached with the roots of higher plants help the absorption of water and minerals, protect the roots against the attacks of other parasitic fungi and in turn get nutrition from the plants. Some fungi are Saprophytes in nature and get feed from dead organic material of plants. The digestion mechanism of fungi is distinguish in the sense that they excrete enzymes (Exo-enzymes) outside their body to get the plant debris digest first and then absorb nutrition from it (Exo-digestion).
6. They dominate the field of Medicine
Fungi are used in the field of medicine from about 4500 years. Chinese herbalists were the first who used the brackets fungi in the medicine to promote long live. Today we get a number of antibiotics from fungi, which helps us to kill bacteria and defended infection. Few of these precious drugs are Penicillin, Griseofulvin, Cephalosporin etc. Recent studies and researches on fungi shows that they have inhibitory effects against caners cells and viruses.
7. But They also Cause Diseases
There is over 1.5 to 5 million species of fungi but only 5% of which are classified. Most of them are harmless to human and some even useful but few of them causes diseases or infections (called Mycosis) in human. Athletes Foot, Oral Thrush, Vaginal Thrush, and Ring worm infection of skin are some common examples of disease caused by fungi. Fungi also cause harm to the industry of silk as they cause killing of silkworms early 1800s in Europe (this, also, is the first ever evidence of fungal disease).
8. Fungi – A handy Tool for Researchers
Fungi play a wide role in research. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, (Baker’s yeast), a kind of unicellular fungi is the first organism (and Eukaryotic cell) which have their genome decoded. They also play role in researches in the field of Medicine as their cells are somewhat similar to human cells (Both are eukaryotes)
9. We Eat and Drink Fungi almost daily, but how?
Fungi are used widely in food and beverage industries. We consume the products obtained from fungi on daily basis. Citric acid used in soft drinks, artificial juices and candies are actually produced by fungi as a result of fermentation in food industries. They also used in the production of beers, spirits and wines etc. Other than beverages, fungi have majored role in baked products such as Breads, Pizza and cheeses. Soon fungi will used in industries to produce Protein “Fungal Protein” as an alternative to meat.
10. We inhale them as well
The air we breathe in contain more than 10,000 fungal spores per cubic meter, they grow easily in our housed mainly in basements and bathrooms where fungi emitted toxic gases and can cause mold allergies. The gases emitted by fungi are among the causes of “sick building syndrome”.