We explain what mushrooms are, what their origin was and how they are classified. In addition, its general characteristics. playback and more.

There are more than 144,000 species of fungi, including yeasts, molds, and mushrooms.

What are mushrooms?

Fungi are commonly called living beings belonging to Kingdom Fungi, one of the groups in which known life is classified. There are more than 144,000 different species of fungi, including yeasts, molds, and mushrooms.

This Kingdom is characterized by certain su immobility due to having a heterotrophic diet and for presenting cells with a chitin cell wall. The science that studies fungi is mycology.

mushrooms They exist all over the world and in different habitats., appearing in different forms and presentations. The traditional idea of ​​fungus, the mushroom, with its mottled cap and elongated white body, is just one of the many known species of mushrooms. Many others are even microscopic.

Of the total number of fungi on our planet, only 5% have been studied and classified. It is estimated that there are about 1.5 million species yet to be identified, since fungi were once thought to be a type of plant. Advances in biology allowed them to be distinguished and constituted a separate biological phylum.

See also: Myriapods

How did mushrooms originate?

mushrooms they broke away from the other kingdoms a billion years ago about. However, they still share with the plant kingdom characteristics such as the lack of locomotion and the type of body structures. Also they approach protists in their biochemical composition.

for being eukaryotic organisms, it is a more modern evolutionary branch, compared to the prokaryotes of the Monera kingdom. In fact, its cell structure resembles that of plants, with notable differences, such as the absence of chlorophyll.

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How are fungi classified?

saprophic fungi
Saprophytes feed on decaying matter, such as a fallen tree.

Fungi are classified into four large groups, according to their nature:

  • Saprophytes. They feed on the decomposition of organic matter from other forms of life, such as plants and animals. These fungi can be specific or not, that is, they can feed on a certain type of organic matter, or on any type of organic matter in general.
  • Mycorrhizal. They establish a symbiotic relationship with plants, proliferating in their roots and exchanging with them mineral nutrients and water (generated by the fungus) in exchange for carbohydrates and vitamins (generated by the plant and that the fungus is unable to synthesize). This type of relationship is called mycorrhiza.
  • lichenized. Lichens are symbiotic organisms product of the union of a fungus and an alga or cyanobacteria, establishing a close relationship of various kinds. Together they provide themselves with moisture and nutrients, proliferating better than separately.
  • Parasites. Those that proliferate within the body of other living beings or established on its surface, feeding on them and often causing various damages in the process, which can be mild or fatal.

How do mushrooms reproduce?

mushrooms can reproduce sexually and asexually, but always through spores. These are forms resistant to the environment that, given the optimal conditions to develop, germinate and create a new specimen of the fungus.

spores are equivalent to tree seeds. Once they find the right conditions, their growth can be very fast. In some cases it can even be seen with the naked eye, for example, a tropical mushroom grows about 5mm per minute.


Fungi do not photosynthesize, so they do not have chloroplasts.

fungal cells They are similar to those of plants and animals., in the sense that they are eukaryotes, that is, they have a defined cell nucleus. Similar to plants, they have vacuoles and a cell wall.

However, they differ from plants in that their cell wall is made of chitin instead of cellulose, as in plants. Also, fungi do not photosynthesize, so they do not have chloroplasts.

Secondly, fungal cells often have a filamentous appearance, elongated and tubular. They often have several nuclei, along with vesicles that store proteins, lipids, and other organic molecules. They are usually multicellular, but there are also unicellular and microscopic species, such as yeasts.

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Where do mushrooms live?

mushrooms They can be found in a huge diversity of habitats.. Some species prefer humid environments rich in humus (decaying organic matter), such as the soil of deciduous forests, especially in rainy seasons.

Other species flee from sunlight and proliferate in dark and humid environments, like the famous black mold, extremely toxic. They are mostly terrestrial.

There are fungi that resist conditions unsuitable for most of the members of the kingdom. For example, species of fungi have been found in deserts, in environments of extreme salinity, on the ocean floor, in environments exposed to ionizing radiation. This gives us an idea of ​​its adaptability.

By last, many species are strictly parasitic. This means that they can only be found on or in the body of the plants and animals they feed on, at the cost of harming and eventually killing them.

How do mushrooms feed?

Many species of fungi thrive in moist places like the forest floor.

Fungi are heterotrophs, that is, they do not make their own food like plants. To sustain themselves, they require the assimilation and decomposition of organic matter, work that they carry out in different habitats and conditions.

Therefore tend to proliferate in suitable environmentsgenerally associated with humidity, the abundance of organic matter (especially in decomposition) or darkness.

Biological importance of fungi

Fungi play an important ecological role. helping to break down organic matter in soils and dead animals or plants. This is a task that they share with bacteria and some species of insects.

In that sense, They are part of the recycling department of nature. The exception are those parasites that, on the contrary, are the cause of diseases.

Diversity of uses of mushrooms

The use of mushrooms in gastronomy is common.

Many human cultures have used mushrooms in various ways. Some species serve as ornament of gardens and environments, due to its cheerful color. For centuries various cultures have used them as part of rituals.

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It is very common to use it as food. In some cases they are consumed directly like mushrooms and other mushrooms. But it can also be fed to livestock, or participate in the food industry, as is the case with the yeasts used in bakeries and in the manufacture of beer.

Poisonous fungi

poisonous mushroom
The Amanita Muscaria contains a neurotoxin that can induce coma.

Some species of fungi secrete toxins that make them potentially lethal if they are ingested. The enzymes of these poisonous mushrooms induce tachycardia, vomiting, colic, cold sweat, thirst, bloody excretions or even decompensation of blood pressure.

Depending on the amount consumed, the patient may suffer necrotic damage in the liver and kidneys. In some cases an immediate transplant is required.

There is no general rule to distinguish poisonous mushrooms from edible ones, so it is convenient to find out as much as possible about a species before ingesting it.

Diseases caused by fungi

In the case of parasitic fungi, these are responsible for diseases in animals, plants and humans, depending on the particular species. For example:

  • Vegetables such as corn or fruits can be contaminated with fungi capable of destroying entire crops, such as corn blight, wheat rust or fruit mildew. About 15% of the world’s crops fall victim to some form of fungal infection.
  • Various human diseases are caused by the appearance of fungi, such as the so-called “athlete’s foot” that causes the fungus deuteromycete; or vaginal yeast infection Candida albicans, candidiasis, capable of upsetting the chemical balance of the genitals.
  • Many other animal species are infected by fungi, from mammals to insects. For example, the Costa Rican grasshopper is often a victim of fungi of the genus Cordycepswhich coats its exoskeleton, slowly digesting it until it kills it, enveloping it in a fungal structure and spreading its spores to other grasshoppers.


  • “Fungi” on Wikipedia.
  • “Main characteristics of fungi”in Jardinería ON.
  • “Fungi (kingdom Fungi): characteristics and classification or types”in Paradais Sphynx.
  • “General characteristics of fungi” in asturnatura.com.
  • “Kingdom fungi”in BioEncyclopedia.
  • “Fungus (life-form)”in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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