Fun Facts about Fungi

By Madhavi Pothukuchi

7 September, 2022

Image source: Adobe Stock

Fungi are one of the most interesting organisms on the planet. There are an estimated 3.8 million types of fungi in the world, making it the most populated kingdom in nature. What’s more – 90% of them are still unexplored. But today, let’s look at what we do know about these ‘fun-guys’!

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Friend and foe

Fungi are an important ingredient in many medicines that treat serious diseases.  Many antibiotics, including the famous penicillin, contain elements from fungi. On the other hand, fungi can be extremely dangerous too. Infections can be fungal in nature, while some fungi can be deceptively toxic and fatal. 

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Glowing in the dark

Did you know fungi can glow in the dark? Some mushrooms are bioluminescent thanks to a compound called luciferins, which is the same compound that makes fireflies and some jellyfish light up. The bioluminescence is called ‘foxfire’ and is used to attract insects that help spread the fungi’s spores to reproduce.

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Zombie-ant fungus!

Found in the Amazon forest, the villainous Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (zombie-ant fungus) can make its way into a carpenter ant and grow in a way that takes control of the ant’s brain! It then makes the ant leave its nest and go to a more conducive environment for the fungi to grow, eventually killing the ant.

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Animal nature

Fun fact – fungi are more similar to you than a plant! Fungi were classified as plants earlier, but research proved fungi are neither plants nor animals but have a separate kingdom. However, they are closer to animals than plants in the way they ‘breathe’ (take in oxygen and give out CO2), while some even consume meat.

Image source:Adobe Stock

Largest of them all

Did you know the largest living organism in the world is a fungus? The ‘honey mushroom fungus’ or Armillaria ostoyae is a 2,384-acre-wide (almost 10 km) fungus found in the US and is thousands of years old. Despite its name, there’s nothing sweet about it – it kills and consumes trees and woody plants.

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Nature's cleaners

Fungi may seem scary and gross, but they’re really beneficial to us and our planet. Fungi help decompose organic matter, including dead bodies. Fungi are also our biggest ally when it comes to battling climate change. Some fungi can eat plastic, while others can even consume nuclear matter, making them natural cleaners and vital to our environment. 

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The Wood Wide Web

Fungi are nature’s internet! Underneath all forests and woods are a secret but huge network of fungi, bacteria, and tree roots. Mostly made up of Mycorrhizal fungi,  this network is over 500 million years old  and helps trees communicate with each other during threats or exchange nutrients. The trees and fungi have a symbiotic relationship.

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For more awesome organisms head to the link below