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 What are vascular Fungi?
 Classification of Fungi
 Procedure of Specimen Production
 Records and Identification of Specimens
 Cultural Research Methods
 Common Identification Reagents and Their Formula
  What are vascular Fungi?
Fungi are ubiquitously present in air, water, soil and organisms, or on organism surfaces. Fungi are very diverse taxonomically with many different species. They are diverse in size from invisible yeasts, which are only several microns in diameter, to extremely large polypores, which may grow up to several meters in diameter. Although diverse in species as well as in form, fungi share some common characteristics, which are summarized as follows:
(1). Fungi are eukaryotic organisms. Compared to other eukaryotic plants or animals, fungi have relatively very small nuclei, containing very few nucleotides in their genomes. For example, the amount of nucleotides in mushrooms is eight times that in E. coli bacterium (a prokaryote), but is only one percent of that in humans.
(2) Fungi live heterotrophically as saprophytes, parasites or mutualists. Unlike animals, which ingest and then digest, fungi secrete digestive enzymes onto a food source nearby, dissolve it to smaller soluble molecules and then ingest them into cells.
(3) Fungal cells have cell walls, which are composed mostly of chitin.
(4) Most fungi consist of hyphae, which combine to make up the fungal mycelium. (Yeasts, which are unicellular and grow reproductively by some type of budding or fission, are an exception.) Fungi can reproduce sexually or asexually by spores that grow from hyphae.
Some of the fungi familiar to people are used in fermentation, such as Saccharomyces sp., which can be used to make bread or wine and only can be seen with microscope. Some members of order Mucorales (Zygomycota) are used to make fermented soy beans. Rhizopus sp. that grows on old bread are also members of Zygomycota. Penicillin, widely used in medicine, is made from Penicillium sp., a member of Mitosporic fungi. Many edible fungi, such as Lentinusedodes (Berk.), Agaricus bisporus and auricularia, are members of Basidiomycota. In addition to their use as food and medicine, fungi are also important players in nature. Many fungi, such as wood-rotting fungi and Piloboous sp., participate in the decomposition process of bio remains or organic matters, accelerating the cycle and use of natural substances. Some fungi are parasitic and may cause diseases. For example, cordyceps sinensis is the host insect of Cordyceps sp. Ganoderma sp. lives on trees parasitically and causes damage to them. Many fungi form mutually-beneficial symbiotic relations with other life forms. For instance, lichens, commonly seen in the forests or woods, are symbiotic life forms consisting of fungi and algae. Root systems of a vast majority of seed plants and members of Endogonaceae may form endomycorrhiza relationship, which enhances the ability of plants to absorb nutrients from the soil. Many species of fungi form ectomycorrhiza relationship with plants. In short, fungi of various kinds play an important role in both natural ecosystems and our daily life. However, our knowledge of them is still quite limited. The book introduces members of Ascomycota and Basidiomycota in the hope that the general public can know more about them and more students can be inspired to joint the research work of this biological field.
The Digital Museum of Nature & Culture
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