“People don’t know very much about the third kingdom on the planet,” said Steven L. Stephenson, research professor of biological sciences in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “But fungi are a lot more interesting than most people realize.”
Stephenson’s book, The Kingdom Fungi: The Biology of Mushrooms, Molds, and Lichens, published by Timber Press, offers a comprehensive overview of these living organisms that are neither plant nor animal. In the book, Stephenson talks about what fungi are, what forms they take, their role in nature and their influence on humans.
“You can’t get away from fungi. The spores are in the air around you right now,” Stephenson said. “But we don’t notice them until they make an obvious appearance.”
An “obvious appearance” occurs when the spores land somewhere that they can find nourishment – be it a rotting log or a piece of bread left on the counter – then colonize and develop a vegetative body, which is the life stage of a fungus most people see in the forest or on neglected food.
Spoiled food aside, fungi perform essential functions in earth’s ecosystems: They decompose plant material and recycle nutrients back into the soil, which allows more plant growth. Without them, forests and grasslands would die. Fungi also live symbiotically with some plants, including orchids and aspens. Without the unseen fungi, neither of these species could survive.
Fungi also cause problems for some plants. The chestnut blight fungus eliminated the chestnut tree from forests in the eastern United States in less than 50 years. And the fungus that caused the potato blight in Europe changed the course of history, causing people to immigrate to foreign countries.
But before blasting fungi for their pathogenic ways, consider this: If you’ve ever had penicillin to treat an infection, you owe your cure to a fungus. And every time you eat leavened bread, or sit down to socialize with a bottle of beer or a glass of wine, it’s time to thank fungi again.
Despite the clear influence of fungi on human culture, these organisms remain understudied.“We do not know how many fungi there are on the planet,” Stephenson said. Conservative estimates suggest there may be 1.5 million species of fungi, but only about 100,000 have been formally described. Scientists describe about 1,000 new species of fungi each year, but most remain unknown to science.
“We tend to know a lot about fungi where people study fungi,” as in Europe, for instance, Stephenson said. But records in many countries, such as Thailand, and even on some continents, such as Africa, remain scarce. “It’s a matter of not having enough expertise,” he said.Four Fungi Facts
4. Fungi fiction: Mushrooms make an appearance in some of the works of Shakespeare, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth.CONTACTS:
Melissa Lutz Blouin | Newswise Science News
'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine