Fungi Death Becomes Them CrashCourse Biology
Hello and welcome to the wonderfulworld of fungi (fuhngahy), or fungi (fuhnjahy).Both are acceptable pronunciations. But I say fungi because it's fungus.Not funjus. Though funjus is also fun to say. Fungi are a little bit like plants, and more like animalsthan you might think. They diverged from protistsabout a billion years ago, and today scientists estimatethat there are about 1.5 million
species of Fungi on the earth,though in a formal, taxonomic way, we only know about100,000 or so of them. And those that we have metare wonderful, weird, and, in some cases, deadly. And the fact is, death is prettymuch what fungi are all about. Sure, there are the fun fungi,like the singlecelled Saccharomyces, also known as yeast. Without them, we wouldn'thave beer, wine or bread.
It's also true that fungi areresponsible for all kinds of diseases, from athlete's foot to potentiallydeadly histoplasmosis, aka spelunker's lung,caused by fungus found in bird and bat droppings. Fungi can even make people crazy. When the fungus Clavicepspurpurea grows on grains used to make bread and beer,it causes gangrene, nervous spasms, burning sensations, hallucinations,and temporary insanity.
One compound in this fungus,lysergic acid, is the raw materialused to make LSD. And finally there's the destructionthat some fungi bring onto other animals: More than 6 millionbats in North America have died since just 2007, due to a fungaldisease called white nose syndrome. And a fungus has beenimplicated in several extinctions of amphibians andthreatens many more, perhaps as many as a thirdof all amphibians on Earth.
But none of this is what I meanwhen I talk about fungi and death. While some members of thefungus family are total bummers, all of them together performperhaps the most vital function in the global food web: They feaston the deceased remains of almost all organismson the planet. And by doing that, they convertthe organic matter that we're all made of back into soil,from which new life will spring. So, fungi: They thrive ondeath, and in the process,
make all life possible. Aha! You Didn't expect to seeme in the chair so soon! But before we go any deeperinto the kingdom fungi, I wanted to make a toast to Louis Pasteurin the form of a Biolography. By Pasteur's time, beer had beenbrewed for thousands of years in cultures all over the world. Some experts think it may havebeen the very reason that our