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Difference Between Algae and Fungi

Algae and fungi are two different classes of living organisms. They both share some common features and differences as well. One interesting fact about algae and fungi is the symbiotic relationship a few species share. Lichen is a symbiotic relationship where fungi and algae support each other’s existence.


Algae are chlorophyllous thalloid. Algae, being autotrophic, are capable of synthesizing their own food. They are simple and largely aquatic (marine or freshwater). They are found in a variety of habitats such as wood, moist stones, and soils. A few fungi live in association with fungi and animals. The sizes and forms of algae are highly variable. The size of algae ranges from microscopic structures to filamentous and colonial forms.


Fungi are achlorophyllous and non-mobile thallophytes. The cell wall of fungi is made up of chitin. Fungi are incapable of synthesizing their own food due to the absence of chlorophyll. Thus, fungi depend on other living entities to derive their food. Fungi are characterized by the presence of hyphae, thin and long threadlike structures.

Let’s have a look at the key differences between algae and fungi.



The term “alga” means “seaweed”.

The term “fungus” means a “sponge”. 

Algae are aquatic living organisms, found in both freshwater and marine water bodies. 

Fungi can be called terrestrial organisms. They do not need as much water as algae need

Algae contain chlorophyll and are autotrophic in nature. 

Fungi do not contain chlorophyll. They are not autotrophic. 

Algae can synthesize their own food in the presence of sunlight.

The fungi cannot synthesize food for themselves. 

Algae do not depend on other organisms for food and are not parasitic. 

Fungi depend on other organisms for food. They feed on dead substrates, hence saprophytic in nature. They also depend on living animals and plants, hence parasitic. 

They do exist in a symbiotic relationship with other organisms such as fungi and roots of higher plants. 

Example of Fungi living in association with algae - Lichen 

Example of fungi living in association with roots of higher plants - Mycorrhiza. 

Algae exist in variable sizes and forms. Some of the forms in which they exist are filamentous, spiral, and colonial. 

Except for yeats, all fungi are filamentous. 

The body of algae is known as thallus. It is not differentiated into roots, stems, and leaves. 

The body of fungi comprises long threadlike structures known as hyphae. Hyphae come together to form mycelium. 

The modes of reproduction in algae include - Vegetative, asexual, and sexual. 

- Vegetative reproduction is by fragmentation.

- Asexual reproduction takes place with the production of zoospores. 

- Sexual reproduction is through the fusion of two gametes. The three types of sexual reproduction include isogamy, oogamy, and anisogamy. 

The modes of reproduction in fungi include - vegetative, asexual, and sexual. 

- Vegetative reproduction is by fragmentation, budding, and fission. 

- Asexual reproduction takes place through the formation of spores called conidia. Conidia are also called zoospores or sporangiospores. 

-Sexual reproduction is through the fusion of two gametes. The steps involved in the sexual reproduction of fungi include plasmogamy, karyogamy, and meiosis in zygotes. 

Uses of algae: 

- Algae are of great benefit to humans. Algae are responsible for fixing at least ½ of the total CO2  on the earth. 

- They undergo photosynthesis and enhance the amount of dissolved oxygen in their surroundings. They are capable of producing high-energy compounds that act as a foundation for aquatic food cycles. 

- Species of algae such as Porphyra and sargassum are used as food materials. 

- Agar, derived from gracilaria or gelidium, is widely used in the preparation of chocolates, jellies, and ice-creams. 

- A few species like spirulina and chlorella are used as food supplements because they are rich in proteins. 

Uses of fungi: 

- Most fungi act as a great source of healthy food. Examples of fungi eaten as food are mushrooms. 

- Yeast is used in the preparation of bread, alcoholic & non-alcoholic preparations, and probiotics. 

- Yeast is used in the production of Vitamin B. 

- Penicillin, a significant antibiotic, is derived from the fungus Penicillium notatum. 

- Fungi are excellent at decomposing dead organic matter. Fungi help the soil retain essential nutrients and minerals. 

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