FUNGI. Federoff. What Are Fungi?. Many fungi feed by absorbing nutrients from decaying matter in the soil. Others live as parasites, absorbing nutrients from their hosts. What Are Fungi?.
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In most fungi, cross walls divide the hyphae into compartments resembling cells, each containing one or two nuclei. In the cross walls, there are openings through which cytoplasm and organelles can move.
Many fungi feed by releasing digestive enzymes that break down leaves, fruit, and other organic material into simple molecules. These molecules then diffuse into the fungus.
Many organisms remove important trace elements and nutrients from the soil. Fungi recycle these essential elements and nutrients. If these materials were not returned, the soil would quickly be depleted.
Lichens are extremely resistant to drought and cold. Therefore, they can grow in places where few other organisms can survive—on dry bare rock in deserts and on the tops of mountains.
Lichens are able to survive in these harsh environments because the green algae or cyanobacteria carry out photosynthesis, providing the fungus with a source of energy, while the fungus provides the green algae or cyanobacteria with water and minerals.
Fungi also form mutualistic relationships with plant roots. These symbiotic associations of plant roots and fungi are called mycorrhizae.
Researchers estimate that 80 to 90 percent of all plant species form mycorrhizae with fungi.
The hyphae collect water and minerals and bring them to the roots, greatly increasing the effective surface area of the root system. In addition, the fungi release enzymes that free nutrients in the soil.
The plants, in turn, provide the fungi with the products of photosynthesis.