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Fungi and the History of Mycology

  1. Bryce Kendrick

Published Online: 17 OCT 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002320.pub2



How to Cite

Kendrick, B. 2011. Fungi and the History of Mycology. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Sidney-by-the-Sea, British Columbia, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 OCT 2011


Fungi, broadly defined, (1) are eukaryotic, (2) have no plastids or photosynthetic pigments, (3) are therefore heterotrophic (unable to make their own food from inorganic components), (4) are osmotrophic (absorb rather than ingest food), (5) are often opportunistic and capable of exploiting many different substrates, (6) are never amoeboid at any stage, (7) almost always live inside branching networks of microscopic, apically extending, tubular structures known as hyphae, (8) almost all reproduce by unicellular or multicellular spores, (9) generally have haploid somatic nuclei and (10) mostly do not produce flagellate cells. Mycology is the branch of science that studies these organisms.

Key Concepts:

  • The fungi are classified in two biological kingdoms, which are called Chromista and Eumycota (also known as Stramenopila and Fungi, respectively).

  • Fungi are composed of hyphae (germ tubes) that arise when a spore germinates. Hyphae have walls of chitin (in the eumycotan fungi) or cellulose (in the chromistan fungi).

  • The nuclei in somatic cells of chromistan fungi are diploid, whereas those in somatic cells of eumycotan fungi are haploid.

  • Almost all fungi eventually reproduce by means of spores, usually modified bits of hyphae, which vary greatly in size and appearance.

  • The ascomycetes and basidiomycetes are characterised by their sexual reproductive structures (teleomorphs), for example, cup fungi and mushrooms.

  • Many ascomycetes and basidiomycetes appear to have lost the ability to develop sexual structures, and survive happily as mitosporic fungi (anamorphs).

  • Fungi have established mutualistic symbioses with cyanobacteria and chlorophycota (green algae) to form lichens.

  • The current classification of the fungi and our understanding of their life cycles is to a large extent based on the work of Anton de Bary in the middle of the nineteenth century.


  • ascomycetes;
  • basidiomycetes;
  • Chromista;
  • Eumycota;
  • hyphae;
  • mycelia;
  • mushrooms;
  • oomycetes;
  • phyla;
  • zygomycetes