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The Kingdom of Fungi

The Kingdom of Fungi

Jens H. Petersen
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Kingdom of Fungi
    Book Description:

    The fungi realm has been called the "hidden kingdom," a mysterious world populated by microscopic spores, gigantic mushrooms and toadstools, and a host of other multicellular organisms ranging widely in color, size, and shape.The Kingdom of Fungiprovides an intimate look at the world's astonishing variety of fungi species, from cup fungi and lichens to truffles and tooth fungi, clubs and corals, and jelly fungi and puffballs. This beautifully illustrated book features more than 800 stunning color photographs as well as a concise text that describes the biology and ecology of fungi, fungal morphology, where fungi grow, and human interactions with and uses of fungi.

    The Kingdom of Fungiis a feast for the senses, and the ideal reference for naturalists, researchers, and anyone interested in fungi.

    Reveals fungal life as never seen beforeFeatures more than 800 stunning color photosDescribes fungal biology, morphology, distribution, and usesA must-have reference book for naturalists and researchers

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4687-0
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-2)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-3)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 4-5)
  4. Introducing fungal life
    (pp. 6-7)

    A super short trip through a fungal generation could look like this:

    When a fungal spore germinates it will form long, cylindrical, branched cells calledhyphae. These grow in a nutritive substrate soil, wood, dung, etc.), where they form amycelium(below).

    The hyphae exude enzymes that disperse into the substrate, where organic material is decomposed. The resulting smaller molecules (e.g., sugars) then diffuse back inside the hyphae and serve as fuel for the growth.

    While the fungus grows, it accumulates energy in the mycelium and spreads to new food sources, often by means of thickerhyphal strings(facing page,...

  5. Fungal spores
    (pp. 8-11)

    A spore is a small structure that is fundamental to fungal dispersal. It typically consists of one or a few cells and doesn’t contain specialized cells with nutrients, as is the case in plant seeds. Compared to seeds, fungal spores are very, very small, typically about 1/100 of a millimeter long (usually expressed as 10 µm). They may even be smaller—for example, 3 µm—and are extremely well suited for wind dispersal.

    There is an amazing variation in spore morphology: from colorless to black, smooth, warty, striated, spiny, crested, and with every imaginable shape. Some reasons for this variation...

  6. Hyphae
    (pp. 12-17)

    Most fungal cells are much longer than wide and are fused to each other only at the ends. The resulting cell strands are calledhyphae, and the separations that divide them are calledsepta. Most hyphae are very narrow—5–15 µm—much thinner that a typical plant cell.

    Hyphae will branch and form a complex network of cells called amycelium. The picture below shows hyphae germinating from a group of dark spores on a petri dish. As the hyphae spread over the agar, the hyphal tips exude enzymes that decompose nutrients into simple molecules, which can then diffuse...

  7. Kinship
    (pp. 18-23)

    Biologists have invented a hierarchical system that places all organisms into named groups according to their kinship. As an overview of this complex system, thesekinship groups(also calledphylogenetic groups) are listed below:

    The lowest level,the species, is—at least in theory—a real entity consisting of individuals that can interbreed. All higher levels are abstractions created to articulate the assumed level of kinship.

    In practical work with organisms we often define groups based on their morphology rather than kinship. These highly practical groups are calledform groupsand should not be confused with kinship groups. The red...

  8. The perfect imperfects
    (pp. 24-33)

    Fungi have to disperse. When we find fungi in nature, we see mostly their fruiting bodies, which produce spores by sexual reproduction. The dispersal of sexually produced spores is one way to spread, but many fungi use a faster and more efficient way: they produce asexual spores. In some cases these spores are produced directly from the mycelium, but fungi usually form specialized hyphal structures to do the job. Although these are elegant and accomplish their purpose very efficiently, they were traditionally called “imperfect” (as opposed to the sexual state, called “perfect”). In more contemporary terms, we talk about the...

  9. Fruiting bodies
    (pp. 34-45)

    To disperse themselves through sexual reproduction, fungi formfruiting bodies(also called carpophores, sporophores, ascocarps, or basidiocarps—or, more correctly, basidiomata and ascomata). Fruiting bodies are constructed of closely interwoven hyphae. Sometimes these hyphae resemble the hyphae of the mycelium, but they may also be specialized and found only in connection with fruiting bodies. For example, many fruiting bodies are partially built of strings of inflated cells (almost like pearl necklaces), and some perennial polypores are partly made of special thick-walled, skeletal hyphae.

    Most fruiting bodies carry a palisade structure called ahymenium, where the reproductive cells are found and...

  10. The Ascomycota
    (pp. 46-101)

    The largest group of fungi is called the Ascomycota. The main, defining character for the Ascomycota is their production of sexual spores in cells calledasci. The asci are normally found in a tissue called thehymenium. Here the asci sit parallel to each other, often intermixed with sterile hyphae calledparaphyses. If the hymenium is colored, the pigment is often in the tips of the paraphyses. A single ascus usually contains eight spores, although the number may vary from one to several thousand. The Ascomycota contain close to sixty-five thousand described species. The majority of these can form fruiting...

  11. The Basidiomycota
    (pp. 102-191)

    The Basidiomycota are defined by the production of sexual spores onbasidia. Basidia are mostly club-shaped cells with four small outgrowths calledsterigmata. The sterigmata produce one spore each. The spores are discharged actively but with much less force than in the Ascomycota.

    Another feature unique to the Basidiomycota is the presence ofclamp connectionsin many species. Clamps are small outgrowths at the transverse separations (septa) of the hyphae. They help the nuclei behave correctly during cell divisions.

    The Basidiomycota form the second largest group of fungi, with more than thirty-one thousand described species. Boletes, agarics, polypores, chantarelles and...

  12. The Zygomycota and other groups
    (pp. 192-193)

    Besides the Ascomycota and Basidiomycota, there are six more groups of fungi. Of these only the Zygomycota and the Glomeromycota form structures easily seen by the naked eye.

    The Zygomycota are a form group, and with the exception of the genusEndogone, they never form real fruiting bodies. They do, however, form very conspicuous anamorphs—for example,EntomophthoraandPandora, which attacks living insects;KickxellaandPilobolus, which form on dung; andMucorandRhizopus, which form on foodstuffs and other substrates (page 30).

    Some species of the Glomeromycota may form truffle-like structures in soil. All members of the group...

  13. Fungal ecology
    (pp. 194-221)

    Fungi do not have chloroplasts. Thus they are unable to make their own energy but rely on energy (sugars) made by plants and algae. There are two main strategies for obtaining these sugars:decomposingorganic material formed by plants or getting sugars directly from plants or algae byparasitismormutualistic symbiosis—for example, by forming mycorrhiza or undergoing lichenization.

    Most fungi are decomposers. Initially the nutrients in a growth substrate (for example, in dead wood, stems, or leaves) are bound in large, inaccessible molecules. To incorporate these nutrients into its growing mycelium, the fungus has to break the molecules...

  14. Fungi in the world
    (pp. 223-253)

    Though they live a hidden life, fungi influence the world in numerous ways. Thefunga(the fungal equivalent of an area’sfloraandfauna) is important in ecosystems everywhere. From the cold shores of the Antarctic to tropical rainforests, from human habitations to pristine virgin forests—fungi are there!

    The funga under the harsh conditions ofthe High Arcticmay be dominated by lichens, but during the short summer the more fleshy fruiting bodies of agarics and cup fungi can also be numerous. In subarctic areas, a diverse ectomycorrhizal funga is present in symbiosis with, for example, shrubs ofBetula,...

  15. Fungal future
    (pp. 254-257)

    Considering the short and sporadic occurrence of many fungal fruiting bodies and the rather small amount of research conducted so far in mycology compared to zoology and botany, the present knowledge of fungal diversity is obviously incomplete. For example, it is quite easy to obtain soil samples containing unknown fungal DNA from even the most well-known locales.

    To place fungi on the biological world map we need a realistic estimate of the number of fungal species in nature. In the UK, there are close to 8,000 known species of fungi (this number increases by about 40 per year) and around...

  16. Postscript
    (pp. 259-259)

    The “Amazonian Tongue” was found on several occasions during field-work in Ecuador. This fungus was believed to belong to the very conspicuous genusGuepinia, which belongs in the jelly fungi. Later examination, however, revealed that its basidia had transverse walls, thus placing it outside any known genus.

    This example illustrates our knowledge of fungal diversity. On a single week-long visit to the Amazonian rainforest, several collections of striking but seemingly undescribed species can be made. Even in small, well-known countries in Europe—where fungi have been studied for several centuries—undescribed species are routinely discovered.

    The “Amazonian Mystery Tongue” might...

  17. Index
    (pp. 260-264)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-268)