Fungi are any member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes yeasts, molds and mushrooms. The major difference between plants and fungi is that fungal cells have cell walls that contain chitin, whereas plants cell walls are made up of cellulose. Fungi form a single group of related organisms named eumycota that all share a common ancestor. Fungi is mostly inconspicuous because of their small and sometimes microscopic structures and the hidden lifestyles in soil, on dead or decaying matter and as symbionts of plants, animals and other fungi. We only really notice the fungus once it produces a fruit body, either in the form of a mushroom or as molds. Fungi perform a fundamental role in decomposing organic matter, nutrient cycling and nutrient exchange.

Fungi perform an essential role in our lives. They have for centuries been a human companion, we use them as a direct source of food, as a leavening agent for bread, to ferment various food products, such as wine, beer and soya sauce. We also use fungi as potent antibiotics. Enzymes produced by fungi are used industrially and in detergents. Fungus is also used as biological pesticides to control weeds, plant diseases and insect pesticides. Some species of fungi contain mycotoxins such as alkaloids and polyketides that are toxic to both animals and humans. The fruiting structures of a few species contain psychotropic compounds that are used recreationally or traditionally in spiritual ceremonies. The size of the fungal kingdom is extremely large and expected to have more that 1.5 million members. Up to now we may have only dicovered about 5% of this species.

Most fungi grow as hyphae, which are cylindrical, thread like structures 2 - 10 microns in diameter and several centimaters in length. Hyphae grow at their tips; new hyphae are typically formed by emergence of new tips along existing hyphae by a process called branching. The combination of apical growth and branching leads to the development of mycelium, an interconnected network of hyphae.

Some individual fungal colonies can reach massive dimensions and ages as in the case of Armillaria solidipes, which extends over an area of 900 hectares and has an extimated age of 9000 years. 

Fungal reproduction is complex, reflecting the differences in lifestyle and genetic makeup within this diverse kingdom. It is estimated that a third of fungi reproduce using more than one method of propogation. This leads to both asexual reproductive steps and sexual reproduction. Some fungi exhibit a parasexual cycle that is a process of transferring genetic material without meiosis or sexual structures.   

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