Dear steemians, in this post we shall discuss about the land adoptions of fungi and their economic and commercial importance in our ecosystem.
Fungi are found everywhere where organic matter is present, however they grow best in moist habitats. They are among the successful group of land organisms and have adopted several features in their body and reproduction that suit them according to their habitat and terrestrial lifestyle.
They have extensive system of fast-spreading hyphae which penetrate the substrate and extremely increase the surface area of absorption. The cytoplasm flows throughout the hyphae and is responsible for their rapid growth. The thick hyphal wall is made up of chitin which is more resistant to decay. They can break down the lignin of plant cell wall to obtain their nutrients. In certain species of fungi, hyphae anchor the fungus to substrate and digest and absorb the food.
Due to lack of flagellated cells, non-motile cells, thick walled zygote and other resistant structures, they are very well adapted to live on land. Hyphae are modified in such manner that enable fungi to reproduce themselves without dependence on external water.
Most of the fungi are more resistant than bacteria. They can tolerate extreme temperature of -5⁰C below freezing and 50⁰C or more. That is why molds can grow on oranges and jelly kept in refrigerator while bacteria generally can’t.
Ecological importance of fungi:
1- Fungi have great ecological importance. They are very important decomposers and symbionts. They play vital role in recycling of inorganic nutrients in the ecosystem.
Without their activity, all the essential nutrients would soon locked up in the mounds of dead animals and plants and would be unavailable for use by organisms and ultimately life would cease. Mycorrhizal fungi improve the growth of plants with which they are associated. This type of association is found in 95% of all kinds of vascular plants.
2- Lichens are very good bio-indicators of air quality and are very sensitive to pollution. Some types of fungi are also used for bio-remediation.
Economic importance of fungi:
1- Certain types of fungi are edible. Around 200 types of mushrooms are common edible fungi. But we should also beware of poisonous mushrooms, which are called toadstools like death cap/ death angel and jack-O, latern mushroom.
2- Some fungi are used in food industry. Yeats are used in the production of bread and liquor due to their fermenting ability. Penicillium species are used in giving flavor, aroma and specific colors to cheese. Some species of Aspergillus are used in fermenting/producing of soya sauce and soya paste from soya bean. Citric acid is also obtained from some Aspergillus species.
3- Some fungi are source of antibiotics and other drugs. Penicillin is the first antibiotics, discovered in 1928 is obtained from Penicillium notatum. Lovastatin is used to lower blood cholesterol.
4- In textile industry, some natural dyes are obtained from lichens.
5- Yeasts are mostly used in genetic research due to their rapid generation and rapidly increasing pool of genetic and biochemical information. These are also being used for production of some hormones. Pink bread mold Neurospora is used for genetic research.
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