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Fungi refer to members of a group of syncytial, unicellular, or multi-cellular spore-producing organisms that feed on organic materials (Burnett, 2003). The most common fungal organisms include toadstools, molds, yeast, and mushrooms. Fungi feed on organic matter because they do not have chlorophyll like plants, which make their own food through the process of photosynthesis (Burnett, 2003). Fungal organisms may belong to different fungal phyla, including Zygomycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota. Fungi that do not belong to the same fungal phyla possess different characteristics. This discussion will consider how fungal organisms that belong to Zygomycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota differ based on the methods of reproduction, means of obtaining nutrients, and their importance to human beings.

The phylum Zygomycota consists of the fungal organisms, such as molds, which invade food products like bread (Burnett, 2003). The bread mold possesses various structures, which are helpful in reproduction, support, and absorption of nutrients. Rhizoids absorb nutrients from wet food products. Sporangiophores support the sporangia, which produce spore for sexual reproduction. Species, such as Rhizopus and Mucor, produce proteases and lipases, which are useful in leather, medical, and detergent industries (Nielsen, 2007). However, the bread mold can lead to the wastage of food products because of decomposition. Bread mold produces a large number of spores, which germinate on wet food products when the temperatures are favorable. The species of the phylum Zygomycota can reproduce both sexually and asexually, but the asexual reproduction is the most common (Burnett, 2003).

The phylum Ascomycota consists of sac fungi, which possess ascus as the defining feature (Burnett, 2003). Ascus is the microscopic sexual feature in which the formation of spores occurs for sexual reproduction. Sac fungi, brewer’s yeast, and morels are some of the species that reproduce sexually through the formation of ascospores. However, asexual reproduction is the most dominant way of propagation that enables the fungal species to spread rapidly into new, habitable areas. Budding is the asexual means of propagation in the phylum Ascomycota while asexual spore formation is the asexual means of propagation in Zygomycota (Burnett, 2003). The species in the phylum Ascomycota produce sexually through gametangia. The gametangia are either female or male organs, which interact to produce spores. Species, such as cup fungus, absorb nutrients from food substrates through mycelia implanted in the substrates. Some species like the mycorrhiza have a symbiotic relationship with high plants. They derive metabolic energy as nutrients from the roots of higher plants.  Lichen is another species that forms symbiotic association with algae, especially the green algae. Baker’s yeast is useful to human beings during the manufacture of wine, bread, and beer because accelerates the fermentation of sucrose or glucose to make carbon dioxide and ethanol (Nielsen, 2007).

The phylum Basidiomycota consists of mushrooms, shelf fungi, and puffballs, which possess basidium as a reproductive organ that has a shape of a club (Burnett, 2003). The basidium bears spores outside while the ascus, which is common in the phylum Ascomycota, retains the spores within the structure. This is a clear difference between the phylum Basidiomycota and the phylum Ascomycota. Asexual spore formation and budding are the two different means of asexual reproduction in the phylum Basidiomycota (Burnett, 2003). Many species, such as the shelf fungi obtain nutrients through decaying organic matter, which include leaf litter and wood. Some species like smuts and rusts develop symbiotic association with plants, such as wheat, from which they obtain nutrients. Edible mushrooms serve as nutritious food for human beings, who cultivate it just like other crops (Nielsen, 2007).

In conclusion, the species in phyla Zygomycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota differ from each other slightly by virtue of the methods of reproduction, means of obtaining nutrients, and their importance to human beings. However, the species in the three phyla can be symbiotic and reproduce through either asexual or sexual means (Burnett, 2003). The asexual reproduction is the most common means of propagation among the species in the phyla Zygomycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota (Burnett, 2003).

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