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Kingdom Fungi: Habitat, General Characteristics, Structure, Mode of Nutrition, Practice Problems and FAQs

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘fungi’? Most likely it reminds you of the white cottony thing that grows on rotten bread or fruits. Did you know that even the delicious mushrooms that we eat are members of the kingdom Fungi? You must be intrigued to know the basic features that define an organism as a fungi. Come let’s jump right into it.

Table of Contents

Habitat of Fungi

Most fungi are terrestrial while few inhabit aquatic ecosystems. They generally grow in warm and humid places. Terrestrial fungi are further distinguished as:

  • Coprophilous - Inhabiting dung
  • Corticolous - Growing on barks
  • Epixylic - Growing on wood

Different habitats of fungi

General Characteristics of Fungi

They are generally multicellular except for yeast, which is unicellular. They possess a cell wall, made up of chitin (a polysaccharide), except members of class oomycetes which have a cell wall made up of cellulose. They are achlorophyllous and hence heterotrophic in nature. They store food in the form of glycogen and oil bodies.

Fungi

Structure of Fungi

The bodies of multicellular fungi are composed of long, tubular, filamentous structures called hyphae which form a mass known as mycelium. Hyphae are of two types:

  • Septate hyphae - Cross wall or septum is present in between hyphae.
  • Non-septate or coenocytic hyphae - Cross walls are absent in between hyphae which makes them appear as continuous tubes with multinucleated cytoplasm.

Hyphae in Fungi

Mode of Nutrition in Fungi

Heterotrophic nutrition in fungi can be of three different types -

Heterotrophic Nutrition

  • Saprophytic - These fungi obtain their own food by absorbing soluble organic matter from dead and decaying matter such as bread, rottenning fruits, vegetables. Example: Rhizopus.
  • Parasitic - These fungi obtain their nutrition from living plants and animals. Example: Puccinia, Ustilago. These fungi cause harm to the host and sometimes even kill them. Parasitic fungi are mostly pathogenic in nature.
  • Symbiotic - Some fungi are found symbiotically associated with plants to obtain nourishment. For example, symbiotic association of fungi with algae forms lichens. Some fungi are symbiotically associated with the roots of higher plants and form mycorrhiza.

Practice Problems of Kingdom Fungi

Q1. You are given a slide with the smear of an unknown sample. Under the microscope the smear appears to have a network of long, tubular, filamentous structures. The unknown sample might be derived from a

  • bacteria
  • fungus
  • plant
  • animal 

Solution: The bodies of multicellular fungi are composed of long, tubular, filamentous structures which are known as hyphae. Many hyphae together form a mass known as the mycelium.

Thus, the correct option is b.

Q2. A farmer saw that his wheat crop was dying due to the growth of a pathogenic fungus on the plant. Based on this information, what do you think is the mode of nutrition of the fungus?

  • Autotrophic
  • Saprotrophic
  • Parasitic
  • Symbiotic

Solution: Fungi which are plant pathogens are parasitic in nature and derive nutrition from the living plant hosts. Thus, the fungus which is causing the death of the farmer’s crop can be concluded to have a parasitic mode of nutrition.

Thus, the correct option is c.

Q3. Match the following and choose the correct option.

Column I (Name of fungi)

Column II (Habitat)

A. Epixylic

I. Bark

B. Coprophilous

II. Dung

C. Corticolous

III. Wood

  • A - II, B - I, C - III
  • A - III, B - II, C - I
  • A - I, B - III, C - II
  • A - II, B - III, C - I

Solution: Based on their habitat, terrestrial fungi can be classified as -

Column I (Name of fungi)

Column II (Habitat)

A. Epixylic

III. Wood

B. Coprophilous

II. Dung

C. Corticolous

I. Bark

Thus, the correct option is b.

Q4. Choose the incorrect statement about fungi.

  • Fungi can be unicellular as well as multicellular.
  • They are made up of eukaryotic cells.
  • The primary component of the cell wall of all fungi is cellulose.
  • All fungi have a heterotrophic mode of nutrition.

Solution: Fungi are achlorophyllous, heterotrophic, eukaryotic organisms which can be unicellular like yeast or multicellular like molds and mushrooms.

Most fungi have a cell wall primarily composed of chitin and polysaccharides. Only fungi belonging to class Oomycetes have a purely cellulosic cell wall. 

Thus, the correct option is c.

FAQs of Kingdom Fungi

Question 1: What are the five characteristics of fungi?

Answer. The five characteristics of fungi are -

  • Fungi are eukaryotic organisms which are mostly multicellular but can also be unicellular like yeast.
  • Fungal cells have a cell wall primarily composed of chitin.
  • Fungi are achlorophyllous and have a heterotrophic mode of nutrition.
  • The bodies of multicellular fungi are composed of long, tubular, filamentous structures called hyphae which form a mass known as mycelium.
  • Fungi are mostly found growing on dead and decaying organic matter.

Question 2: What are the different modes of nutrition in fungi?

Answer. Fungi do not possess chlorophyll and are hence not autotrophic in nature. Heterotrophic nutrition in fungi can be achieved by three different modes -

  • Saprophytic - These fungi obtain their own food from dead and decaying organic matter. Example: Rhizopus.
  • Parasitic - These fungi obtain their nutrition from living plants and animals. Example: plant pathogens such as Puccinia, Ustilago
  • Symbiotic - Some fungi are found symbiotically associated with plants to obtain nourishment. For example, symbiotic association of fungi with algae forms lichens.

Question 3: What is a hypha?

Answer. The bodies of multicellular fungi are composed of long, tubular, filamentous structures called hyphae. Hyphae are of two types:

  • Septate hyphae - Cross wall or septum is present in between hyphae.
  • Non-septate or coenocytic hyphae - Cross walls are absent in between hyphae which makes them appear as continuous tubes with multinucleated cytoplasm.

Question 4: Are fungi plants or animals?

Answer. Fungi are classified as a separate and individual kingdom in the five kingdom classification given by Whittaker as they are unique and different from both plants and animals. However, they share similarities to both plants and animals. Like plants they have cells bound by cell walls but the primary cell wall component is chitin and not cellulose. Like animals, they are achlorophyllous and heterotrophic and store food in the form of glycogen.

Other Related Topics

The Living World Biological Classification Plant Kingdom
Animal Kingdom Morphology of Flowering Plants Anatomy of Flowering Plants
Structural Organization in Animals Cells: The Unit of Life Biomolecules
Cell Cycle and Division Transport in Plants Mineral Nutrition
Photosynthesis in Higher Plants Respiration in Plants Plant Growth and Development
Digestion and Absorption Breathing and Exchange of Gases Body Fluids and Circulation
Excretory Products and their Elimination Locomotion and Movement Neural Control and Coordination
Chemical Coordination and Integration

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