Introduction to Fungi

The fungi (singular, fungus) include several thousand species of eukaryotic, sporebearing organisms that obtain simple organic compounds by absorption. The organisms have no chlorophyll and reproduce by both sexual and asexual means. The fungi are usually filamentous, and their cell walls have chitin. The study of fungi is called mycology, and fungal diseases are called mycoses.

Together with bacteria, fungi are the major decomposers of organic materials in the soil. They degrade complex organic matter into simple organic and inorganic compounds. In doing so, they help recycle carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and other elements for reuse by other organisms. Fungi also cause many plant diseases and several human diseases.

Two major groups of organisms make up the fungi. The filamentous fungi are called molds, while the unicellular fungi are called yeasts. The fungi are classified in the kingdom Fungi in the Whittaker five-kingdom system of classification.