Background

The Kingdom Fungi contains a large diversity of organisms, from inconspicuous molds and vcasts to large mushrooms, bracket fungi, and puflballs. Fungi, which can be found everywhere in die environment, arc absorptive hct-erotrophs. They secrete enzymes that break down large, complex organic molecules such as starch or cellulose in the surrounding substrate. The fungal hyphac then absorb the smaller breakdown products, such as the glucose molecules that result from die breakdown of starch or cellulose.

As absorptive hcterotrophs, fungi exist as saprobes, pathogens, or symbionts. The vast majority of fungi arc saprobes, which are responsible for the natural decay and decomposition that occurs in the environment. But saprobes also cause unwanted spoilage of food and mate rials (including paper, fabrics, and building materials indoors, where they are able to grow on substrates such as carpeting, shower curtains, insulation and wallpaper. Any time cxcess moisture is present indoors, molds will grow. Fungal pathogens attack a variety of plants and animals. Some fungi are obligate pathogens and arc only able to survive within a specific host species. Other fungi arc able to attack a range of hosts. Still others are oppor tunistic pathogens, which exist as saprobes but arc capa ble of becoming pathogens when conditions are right. Fungal symbionts form intimate associations with other organisms to the mutual benefit of both. Fungi also con tribute positively to our lives through food, beverages, and medicinal products. Today's lab will focus on the Kingdom Fungi and how these organisms affect our lives.

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