Fungi are important in their role as organisms that decompose or break down organic materials. Fungi work to decompose or break down all the materials and return them to the soil. The materials returned to the soil are then reused by plants, Fungi, along with bacteria are nature’s recyclers. They keep the Earth from becoming buried under mountains of waste materials.
Fungi were once classified as plants because like plants they anchored in soil and have cell walls. But unlike plants, fungi do not make their own food or have the specialized tissues and organs of plants, such as leaves and roots. Most species of fungi are many celled. The body of a fungus is usually a mass of many celled threadlike tubes called hyphae. Fungi are saprophytes.Fungi grow best in warm, humid areas like the tropical forests or the spaces between your toes.
A spore is a reproductive cell that forms new organisms without fertilization. The structures in which fungi produce spores are used to classify fungi into one of the four phyla.
- Phylum Zygomycota:produce spores in round spore cases called sporangia on the tips of the upright hypae.
- Phylum Ascomycota: produce spores in little saclike structure called an ascus.Yeast is one example of a sac fungus.
- Deuteromycota are species of fungi in which a sexual stage has never been observed.
- Phylum Basidiomycota: mushrooms belong to this phyla commonly called the club fungi.
Lichen is an organism that is made of a fungus and either a green algae or a cyanobacterium. This is called a symbiotic existence.Lichens are important food for the musk oxen and the caribou.