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Introduction to Organisms

Author(s): Deanne Erdmann, MS

The Kingdom Fungi

Members of the kingdom Fungi are eukaryotic, heterotrophic, multicelled organisms (except for yeasts).  Examples of fungi are "mushrooms," puffballs, bracket fungi, molds, and mildews. Fungi cell walls contain chitin, which is the same material found in the exoskeletons of arthropods. Fungi are important decomposers in ecosystems as they break down organic materials such as dead organisms, leaves, old wood, and feces.

The body of the multicellular fungi consists of long, slender hyphae, some of which can specialize to hold spores, to anchor its body, to secrete enzymes, and to absorb decomposing material. Fungi break down potential food sources by excreting strong hydrolytic enzymes (exoenzymes). Once the food is broken down into smaller molecules, the fungi then absorb them into their bodies. 

Fungi are generally described and grouped according to the way they reproduce. Reproduction can be both sexual and asexual, producing spores that disperse by wind or water.