This exclusive article covers What is mycology, who are mycologists, classification of fungi, economic importance of fungi, History of mycology, and carriers in mycology. Let’s start with the definition of mycology.
Mycology is defined as one of the major branches of biology that includes the study of fungi, mushrooms, and yeasts. This discipline mainly deals with all the significant things related to these three major groups like:
- Genetic combination and evolutions of Fungi
- Biochemical properties of Fungi
- Taxonomical classification of Fungi
- Benefits of fungi to mankind such as food medicine, tinder, etc.
- Toxicity or harmful diseases Fungi cause.
Thus, mycology is a very diverse field incorporating all in one. Nowadays several mycological researches are advancing this field day by day.
Recent Advancements in the Field of Mycology:
Till now over more than 50,000 Fungi species have been discovered living in a diverse range of environments all over the globe. On one hand, there exist some free-living microorganisms that have no prominent impact on living beings existing on Earth. While, on the other hand, some other species are both beneficial and harmful to mankind. Thus, all these things make it necessary to understand and study them deeply under Mycology.
Some of the recent advancements, that came over from this field, have helped mankind in the following ways:
- Production of antibiotic drugs such as streptomycin, penicillin, tetracycline, and many others.
- Some statins like cholesterol-lowering drugs have also been produced under the umbrella of this field.
- Moreover, the world has excelled very much in the baking industries with the help of yeasts.
- Most of the dairy and brewing industry products are also dependent on the micro-organisms of this field.
- Some fungi species also take part in the production of dyes and inks.
- Besides these, there are a lot more other advantages and disadvantages that will be discussed later in this article.
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History of Mycology
It was not until the 1800s when the fungi were only assumed to be a different kind of plant species. Moreover, at that time most of the mushrooms were merely eaten as a food source or as medicine. Although several classic Greek naturalists and philosophers considered fungi as distinct thins, still they assumed that they were much closely related to plants.
Then later by the middle of the 18th century, when microscopes got discovered, most scientists started studying fungus under it to see the details of its internal features. Those microscopes somehow revealed that fungi have unique features that are different from both animal and plant cells. Therefore, then a very famous scientist named M.J. Berkeley coined the term, “Mycology” for the very first time in the year 1863 and soon fungi started to evolve as a separate kingdom later.
Further on, as this field exploded over time, it gave way to many other branches in itself life agricultural and medical mycology.
Its agricultural field majorly concerns with the controlling as well as utilizing of fungi on commercial crops
While most pharmaceutical companies try to leave each other behind in the race to extract the beneficial compounds from fungus and mushrooms
Besides the major benefits attained from both these fields, most toxicologists study the adverse effects of mycological organisms on other living beings in nature.
Characteristic Features of Fungi
- Fungi may be both unicellular or multicellular eukaryotic microorganisms
- They principally get most of their nutrition from the absorption process
- Chiefly, their cell wall is composed of two main things: Glucagon and chitin
- They have a filamentous multicellular body type with numerous individual microscopic filaments called hyphae.
- Their hyphae tend to show apical growth and extend branches that intermingle to form a dense network called mycelium.
- Most of the fungal species live in three ways: symbiotic, saprophytic, or parasitic form.
- Typically, most fungal nuclei are haploid in nature but a few hyphal components are sometimes multinucleated
- Almost all of them are non-motive and don’t have an embryonic stage during their entire life cycle
- The optimum growth temperature for parasitic fungus is 30-37oC, while some other saprophytic fungus thrives well at 20-30oC
- A unique phenomenon of the alteration of generation occurs in most fungal life cycles, in this way they somehow pass through both haploid and diploid life stages.
- Several fungal species prefer to grow in acidic environments as they can easily tolerate acidic pH.
- Moreover, they tend to live in dry environments with a lot of salt concentration
- They are heterotrophic microorganisms which get their food from animal, plants and dead organic matter.
- The bodies of most mushrooms and fungi store lipids, glycogen, trehalose, sugar alcohols, and many more.
- Last but not the least, mycology shows that the organism studied under this field reproduce by producing different types of spores.
- Sexually by Oospores, Zygospores, Basidiospores, and Ascospores
- Asexually by Aplanospores, Conidia, Sporangiospores, Zoospores
Types of Fungi
There are three types of Fungi based on their structure commonly seen in the fungi kingdom
They are grouped under eukaryotic, unicellular microorganisms. Nearly 1500 species of yeasts are discovered now, which constitute 1% of all described fungal species.
- Their size varies and they can grow up to 40 µm in diameter
- Mostly they reproduce asexually by the process of mitosis and some by the budding process.
- The temperature range varies suitable for their growth. The best temperature for the growth of
- Saccharomyces telluris ranges almost from 41 to 95 °F (5 to 35 °C),
- while for eucosporidium frigidum is approximately 28 to 68 °F (−2 to 20 °C),
- And for Candida slooffi, it is in the range of 82 to 113 °F ( 28 to 45 °C).
Benefits of yeasts
Some types of yeast are very beneficial for humans for example Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is also known as Brewer’s or baker’s yeast, is commonly and commercially used in the formation of bread in the food factories which is a product of daily use of people.
Disadvantages of yeasts
Some yeast species have harmful effects on human life for example Saccharomyces boulardii is found in the intestine, mouth, and esophagus of humans. It can cause infections due to a weak immunity system.
Molds are multicellular microorganisms that have different sizes and colors including green, black, or grey. About 100,000 species of mold have been recognized till now.
They reproduce with the help of spores which are of different sizes that vary from 2 to 100 µm. These mold spores can be spread through animals, water, and air.
Benefits of Molds
They are abundant throughout the environment. They inhabit the soil and help in the breakdown of decaying vegetable materials, and other organic debris to form humus in the soil.
Disadvantages of Molds
They create negative effects on human health. They can spoil food and other feed materials which are used by animals and humans.
Mold species are grouped into three categories.
Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and some Penicillium species produce spores of that kind which act as allergens. In addition to these other molds can also cause allergy which includes
- Pullularia, etc.
Invasive aspergillosis can be caused by two main fungal species
- Aspergillus fumigatus
- Aspergillus flavus
They are the cause of chronic pulmonary infections also.
Histoplasmosis another infectious disease in humans is caused by Histoplasma capsulatum which is a pathogenic species.
Some toxigenic molds are
- Fusarium solani
- Fusarium oxysporum
- Fusarium moniliforme
- Penicillium brevicompactum
- Penicillium chrysogenum
- Penicillium citrinum
- Penicillium corylophilum
- Penicillium cyclopium
- Penicillium expansum
- Penicillium fellutanum
- Penicillium spinulosum
- Penicillium viridicatum
- Aspergillus versicolor
- Aspergillus niger
- Aspergillus flavusand
- Stachybotrys chartarum.
All these are toxic not only for humans but also for animals. Anyone who comes in contact with them can get infections.
Mousseron is a French word that means moss the word mushroom is derived from this.
It relates to the order Agaricales of Phylum Basidiomycota. Mushrooms have a vast variety among them some are edible, some are poisonous and they are both harmful and beneficial for humans.
They are known as Toadstool which can grow trees as well as on soil with fleshy, spore-bearing, and mostly umbrella-shaped fruiting bodies.
Benefits of Mushrooms
- They are used as super foods that have more than 100 beneficial effects on health.
- Mushrooms have vitamin B and minerals such as potassium, iron, phosphorus, and selenium with low calories.
- They are an important source of nutrition for animals like rodents and birds also.
- Mushrooms have commercial, aesthetic, and ecological values which make them prominent among other species
Disadvantages of Mushrooms
Mushrooms also have toxic varieties. they can cause severe diseases to humans and even sometimes lead to death also. The Genus Amanita contains the two most deadly mushrooms named Angel and the Death cap.
Fungi utilize the digestive enzymes in order to break down their food and convert it into liquid form which can be easily absorbed
Trap nematodes (little worms who feed on fungi) make them paralyze with special secretions and then digest and absorb nitrogen from them.
Modes of Nutrition in Fungi
There are three basic modes of nutrition in Fungi, all of them are described in detail below:
- They use non-living organic materials for their survival
- Important searchers in ecosystems.
- They can help in recycling nitrogen, carbon, and essential mineral nutrients.
- They can harm their hosts to some extent as they use organic material from living organisms
- They can survive everywhere ranging from single-celled Diatoms to fungi, from plants to animals and even humans too.
It’s a kind of fungi that have a mutually beneficial relationship with other living organisms
These have a beneficial relationship with fungi plant roots and it is present in more than 90% of plant roots (example: Truffles- expensive delicacy!)
- They are a close association of fungi with cyanobacteria or algae
- Lichens can breakdown rocks into soil
- They are the food source of many animals
- Parasitic fungi cause harm to plants and animals
- They are responsible for about 80% of plant diseases
- They can affect crops and can kill the plants
- Human diseases allergies, athletes’ foot, ringworm, yeast infection is due to these parasitic fungi
- It is a spreadable fungal infection in which a red ring appears on the infected area of the patient’s skin
- It can affect the feet, the nails the scalp, and the body especially the groin. And this condition is called Tinea.
Why is Mycology Important?
This field of Biology is vital to study because without its microorganisms’ life on Earth would not have been as possible as it is now. Moreover, the following are some of the significant reasons why this field is of great importance:
- All the fungal species discovered yet are the primary decomposers of entire organic material dispersed in all the ecosystems of the Earth.
- They play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle by decomposition of dead matter and recycling nutrients for living organisms.
- Also, they are significant to break down pollutants roaming around in the open environment and the most durable organic materials.
- Besides all, fungi and mushrooms produce a wide range of uses and benefits in food and medicines production.
- Lastly, nearly 80% of all plant species present all around the world rely on mycorrhizal association with fungus. This association is defined as a very close symbiotic relationship between a unique fungus and plant roots, the roots provide fungus the living space while the fungus in return provides the plants with nutrients and water absorbed from the soil.
What careers are available in the field of Mycology?
Although the demand for the most fungal scientist is a little less there is a severe shortage of plant pathologists, taxonomists, and mycologists at the same time because these are the subjects that are very less taught in colleges and universities.
The importance of fungi in plant associations, crop growth, pharmacy, and fermentation indicates that there may be some jobs and careers available in the food and agricultural industry still some mycologists find it very hard to find a reliable job.
Who is a mycologist?
A mycologist is defined as a microbiologist who does specialization and research under the umbrella of mycology. Among the vast range of microbiological specializations, mycological specialism is one of the smallest branches though because it is an extremely small niche whose education and training are given in very few institutes. Thus, very small career opportunities exist in this field.
However, mycologists study the properties of fungi such as mold, mushrooms, and yeasts. In addition to that, they also study all the different ways through which the fungi benefit and arm society and Earth’s ecosystems. That proves that Mycology is a great branch to study and progress well.
The following are some of the main roles of a mycologist:
- Firstly, they observe and study the different fungal life processes to explore its implications of novel and traditional agricultural, industrial, medical uses, and many more
- Next, they gather specimens and then pen down the structure, development, physiology, and taxonomy of fungi and mushrooms in the form of a collective document.
- They further work together to prevent the negative impacts of mycological microorganisms on crops.
- Later, upon discovering recent species in the field of mycology, they group them into various classes.
- Lastly, perform various developments and research functions such as improving the procedures of growing edible fungal species like mushrooms.