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FUNGI (p1. of Lat. fungus, a mushroom)

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Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 336 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FUNGI (p1. of Lat. fungus, a mushroom), the botanical name covering in the broad sense all the lower cellular Cryptogams devoid of chlorophyll, which arise from spores, and the thallus of which is either unicellular or composed of branched or unbranched tubes or cell-filaments (hyphae) with apical growth, or of more or less complex wefted sheets or tissue-like masses of such (mycelium). The latter may in certain cases attain large dimensions, and even undergo cell-divisions in their interior, resulting in the development of true tissues. The spores, which may be uni- or multi-cellular, are either abstricted free from the ends of hyphae (acrogenous), or formed from segments in their course (chlamydospores) or from protoplasm in their interior (endogenous). The want of chlorophyll restricts their mode of life—which is rarely aquatic—since they are therefore unable to decompose the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere, and renders them dependent on other plants or (rarely) animals for their carbonaceous food-materials. These they obtain usually in the form of carbohydrates from the dead remains of other organisms, or in this or other forms from the living cells of their hosts; in the former case they are termed saprophytes, in the latter parasites. While some moulds (Penicillium, Aspergillus) can utilize almost any organic food-materials, other fungi are more restricted in their choice—e.g. insect-parasites, horn- and feather - destroying fungi and parasites generally. It was formerly the custom to include with the Fungi the Schizomycetes or Bacteria, and the Myxomycetes or Mycetozoa; but the peculiar mode of growth and division, the cilia, spores and other peculiarities of the former, and the emission of naked amoeboid masses of protoplasm, which creep and fuse to streaming plasmodia, with special modes of nutrition and spore-formation of the latter, have led to their separation as groups of organisms independent of the true Fungi. On the other hand, lichens, previously regarded as autonomous plants, are now known to be dual organisms—fungi symbiotic with algae. The number of species in 1889 was estimated by Saccardo at about 32,000, but of these 8500 were so-called Fungi imperfecti —i.e. forms of which we only know certain stages, such as conidia, pycnidia, &c., and which there are reasons for regarding as merely the corresponding stages of higher forms. Saccardo also included about 400 species of Myxomycetes and 65o of Schizomycetes. Allowing for these and for the cases, undoubtedly not few, where one and the same fungus has been described under different names, we obtain Schroeter's estimate (in 1892) of 20,000 species. In illustration of the very different estimates that have been made, however, may be mentioned that of De Bary in 1872 of 150,000 species, and that of Cooke in 1895 of 40,000, and Massee in 1899 of over 50,000 species, the fact being that no sufficient data are as yet to hand for any accurate census. As regards their geographical distribution, fungi, like flowering plants, have no doubt their centres of origin and of dispersal; but we must not forget that every exchange of wood, wheat, fruits, plants, animals, or other commodities involves transmission of fungi from one country to another; while the migrations of birds and other animals, currents of air and water, and so forth, are particularly efficacious in transmitting these minute organisms. Against this, of course, it may be argued that parasitic forms can only go where their hosts grow, as is proved to be the case by records concerning the introduction of Puccinia malvacearum, Peronospora viticola, Hemileia vastatrix, &c. Some fungi—e.g. moulds and yeasts—appear to be distributed all over the earth. That the north temperate regions appear richest in fungi may be due only to the fact that North America and Europe have been much more thoroughly investigated than other countries; it is certain that the tropics are the home of very numerous species. Again, the accuracy of the statement that the fleshy Agaricini, Polyporei, Pezizae, &c., are relatively rarer in the tropics may depend on the fact that they are more difficult to collect and remit for identification than the abundantly recorded woody and coriaceous forms of these regions. When we remember that many parts of the world are practically unexplored as regards fungi, and that new species are constantly being discovered in the United States, Australia and northern Europe—the best explored of all—it is clear that no very accurate census of fungi can as yet be made, and no generalizations of value as to their geographical distribution are possible. The existence of fossil fungi is undoubted, though very few of the identifications can be relied on as regards species or genera. They extend back beyond the Carboniferous, where they occur as hyphae, &c., preserved in the fossil woods, but the best specimens are probably those in amber and in siliceous petrifactions of more recent origin. Organs.—Individual hyphae or their branches often exhibit specializations of form. In many Basidiomycetes minute branches arise below the septa; their tips curve over the outside of the latter, and fuse with the cell above just beyond it, forming a clamp-connexion. Many parasitic hyphae put out minute lateral branches, which pierce the cell-wall of the host and form a peg-like (Trichosphaeria), sessile (Cystopus), or stalked (Hemileia), knot-like, or a -sm h~ B more or less branched (Peronospora) or coiled(Protomyces)haustorium. In Rhizopus certain hyphae creep horizontally on the surface of the substratum, and then anchor their tips to it by means of a tuft of short branches (appressorium), the walls of which soften and gum themselves to it, then another branch shoots out from the tuft and repeats the process, like a strawberry-runner. Appressoria are also formed by some parasitic fungi, as a minute flattening of the tip of a very short branch (Erysiphe), or the swollen end of any hypha which comes in contact with the surface of the host (Piptocephalis, Syncephalis), haustoria piercing in each case the cell-wall below. In Botrytis the appressoria assume the form of dense tassels of short branches. In Arthrobotrys side-branches of the mycelium sling them-selves around the host (Tylenchus) much as tendrils round a support. Many fungi (Phallus, Agaricus, Fumago, &c.) when strongly growing put out ribbon-like or cylindrical cords, or sheet-like mycelial plates of numerous parallel hyphae, all growing together equally, and fusing by anastomoses, and in this way extend long distances in the soil, or over the surfaces of leaves, branches, &c. These mycelial strands may be white and tender, or the outer hyphae may be hard and black, and very often the resemblance of the subterranean forms to a root is so marked that they are termed rhizomorphs. The outermost hyphae may even put forth thinner hyphae, radiating into the soil like root-hairs, and the convergent tips may be closely appressed and so divided by septa as to resemble the root-apex of a higher plant (Armillaria mellea). Sclerotia.—Fungi, like other plants, are often found to store up large quantities of reserve materials (oil, glycogen, carbohydrates, &c.) in special parts of their vegetative tissues, where they lie accumulated between a period of active assimilation and one of renewed activity, forming reserves to be consumed particularly during the formation of large fructifications. These reserve stores may be packed away in single hyphae or in swollen cells, but the hyphae containing them are often gathered into thick cords or mycelial strands (Phallus, mushroom, &c.), or flattened and anastomosing ribbons and plates, often containing several kinds of hyphae (Merulius lacrymans). In other cases the strands undergo differentiation into an outer layer with blackened, hardened cell-walls and a core of ordinary hyphae, and are then termed rhizomorphs (Armillaria mellea), capable not only of extending the fungus in the soil, like roots, but also of lying dormant, protected by the outer casing. Such aggregations of hyphae frequently become knotted up into dense masses of interwoven and closely packed hyphae, varying in size from that of a pin's head or a pea (Peziza, Coprinus) to that of a man's fist or head, and weighing to to 25 lb or more (Polyporus Mylittae, P. tumulosus, Lentinus Woermanni, P. Sapurema, &c.). The interwoven hyphae fuse and branch copiously, filling up all interstices. They also undergo cutting up by numerous septa into short cells, and these often divide again in all planes, so that a pseudoparenchyma results, the walls of which may be thickened and swollen internally, or hardened and black on the exterior. In many cases the swollen cell-walls serve as reserves, and sometimes the substance is so thickly deposited in strata as to obliterate the lumen, and the hyphae become nodular (Polyporus sacer, P. rhinoceros, Lentinus Woermanni). The various sclerotia, if kept moist, give rise to the fructifications of the fungi concerned, much as a potato tuber does to a potato plant, and in the same way the reserve materials are consumed. They are principally Polyporei, Agaricini, Pezizae; none are known among the Phycomycetes, Uredineae or Ustilagineae. The functions of mycelial strands, rhizomorphs and sclerotia are not only to collect and store materials, but also to extend the fungus, and in many cases similar strands act as organs of attack. The same functions of storage in advance of fructification are also exercised by the stromata so common in Ascomycetes. Tissue Differentiations.—The simpler mycelia consist of hyphae all alike and thin-walled, or merely differing in the diameter of the branches of various orders, or in their relations to the environment, some plunging into the substratum like roots, others remaining on its surface, and others (aerial hyphae) rising into the air. Such hyphae may be multicellular, or they may consist of simple tubes with numerous nuclei and no septa (Phycomycetes), and are then non-cellular. In the more complex tissue-bodies of higher fungi, however, we find considerable differences in the various layers or strands of hyphae. An epidermis-like or cortical protective outer layer is very common, and is usually characterized by the close septation of the densely interwoven hyphae and the thickening and dark colour of their outer walls (sclerotia, Xylaria, &c.). Fibre-like hyphae with the lumen almost obliterated by the thick walls occur in mycelial cords (Merulius). Latex-tubes abound in the tissues of Lactarius, Stereum, Mycena, Fistulina, filled with white or coloured milky fluids, and Istvanffvi has shown that similar tubes with fluid or oily contents are widely spread in other Hymenomycetes. Some-times fatty oil or watery sap is found in swollen hyphal ends, or such tubes contain coloured sap. Cystidia and paraphyses may be also classed here. In Merulius lacrymans Hartig has observed thin-walled hyphae with large lumina, the septa of which are perforated like those of sieve-tubes. As regards itt composition, the cell-wall of fungi exhibits variations of the same kind as those met with in higher plants. While the fundamental constituent is a cellulose in many Mucorini and other Phycomycetes, in others bodies like pectose, callose, &c., commonly occur, and Wisselingh's researches show that chitin, a gluco-proteid common in animals, forms the main constituent inmany cases, and is probably deposited directly as such, though, like the other substances, it may be mixed with cellulose. As in other cell-walls, so here the older membranes may be altered by deposits of various substances, such as resin, calcium oxalate, colouring matters; or more profoundly altered throughout, or in definite layers, by lignification, suberization (Trametes, Daedalea), or swelling to a gelatinous mucilage (Tremella, Gymnosporangium), while cutinization of the outer layers is common. One of the most striking alterations of cell-walls is that termed carbonization, in which the substance gradually turns black, hard and brittle, as if charred—e.g. Xylaria, Ustulina, some sclerotia. At the other extreme the cell-walls of many lichen-fungi are soft and colourless, but turn blue in iodine, as does starch. The young cell-wall is always tem'ous and flexible, and may remain so throughout, but in many cases thickenings and structural differentiations, as well as the changes referred to above, alter the primary wall considerably. Such thickening may be localized, and pits (e.g. Uredospores, septa of Basidiomycetes), spirals, reticulations, rings, &c. (capillitium fibres of Podaxon, Calostoma, Battarrea), occur as in the vessels of higher plants, while sculptured networks, pittings and so forth are as common on fungus-spores as they are on pollen grains. Cell-Contents.—The cells of fungi, in addition to protoplasm, nuclei and sap-vacuoles, like other vegetable cells, contain formed and amorphous bodies of various kinds. Among those directly visible to the microscope are oil drops, often coloured (Uredineae) crystals of calcium oxalate (Phallus, Russula), proteid crystals (Mucor, Pilobolus, &c.) and resin (Polyporei). The oidia of Erysipheae contain fibrosin bodies and the hyphae of Saprolegnieae cellulin bodies, but starch apparently never occurs. Invisible to the microscope, but rendered visible by reagents, are glycogen, Mucor, Ascomycetes, yeast, &c. In addition to these cell-contents we have good indirect evidence of the existence of large series of other bodies, such as proteids, carbohydrates, organic acids, alkaloids, enzymes, &c. These must not be confounded with the numerous substances obtained by chemical analysis of masses of the fungus, as there is often no proof of the manner of occurrence of such bodies, though we may conclude with a good show of probability that some of them also exist preformed in the living cell. Such are sugars (glucose, mannite, &c.), acids (acetic, citric and a whole series of lichen-acids), ethereal oils and resinous bodies, often combined with the intense colours of fungi and lichens, and a number of powerful alkaloid poisons, such as muscarin (Amanita), ergotin (Claviceps), &c. Among the enzymes already extracted from fungi are invertases (yeasts, moulds, &c.), which split cane-sugar and other complex sugars with hydrolysis into simpler sugars such as dextrose and levulose; diastases, which convert starches into sugars (Aspergillus, &c.) ; cytases, which dissolve cellulose similarly (Botrytis, &c.) ; peptases, using the term as a general one for all enzymes which convert proteids into peptones and other bodies (Penicillium, &c.) ; lipases, which break up fatty oils (Empusa, Phycomyces, &c.) ; oxydases, which bring about the oxidations and changes of colour observed in Boletus, and zymase, extracted by Buchner from yeast, which brings about the conversion of sugar into alcohol and carbon-dioxide. That such enzymes are formed in the protoplasm is evident from the behaviour of hyphae, which have been observed to pierce cell-membranes, the chitinous coats of insects, artificial collodion films and layers of wax, &c. That a fungus can secrete more than one enzyme, according to the materials its hyphae have to attack, has been shown by the extraction of diastase, inulase, trehalase, invertase, maltase, raffinase, malizitase, emulsin, trypsin and lipase from Aspergillus by Bourquelot, and similar events occur in other fungi. The same fact is indicated by the wide range of organic substances which can be utilized by Penicillium and other moulds, and by the behaviour of parasitic fungi which destroy various cell-contents and tissues. Many of the coloured pigments of fungi are fixed in the cell-walls or excreted to the out-side (Peziza aeruginosa). Matruchot has used them for staining the living protoplasm of other fungi by growing the two together. Striking instances of coloured mycelia are afforded by Corticium sanguineum, blood - red ; Elaphomyces Leveillei, yellow - green ; Chlorosplenium aeruginosum, verdigris green; and the Dematei, brown or black. Nuclei.—Although many fungi have been regarded as devoid of nuclei, and all have not as yet been proved to contain them, the numerous investigations of recent years have revealed them in the cells of all forms thoroughly examined, and we are justified in concluding that the nucleus is as essential to the cell of a fungus as to that of other organisms. The hyphae of many contain numerous, even hundreds of nuclei (Phycomycetes) ; those of others have several (Aspergillus) in each segment, or only two (Exoascus) or one (Erysiphe) in each cell. Even the isolated cells of the yeast plant have each one nucleus. As a rule the nuclei of the mycelium are very minute (I.5-2 µ in Phycomyces), but those of many asci and spores are large and easily rendered visible. As with other plants, so in fungi the essential process of fertilization consists in the fusion of two nuclei, but owing to the absence of well-marked sexual organs from many fungi, a peculiar interest attaches to certain nuclear fusions in the vegetative cells or in young spores of many forms. Thus in Ustilagineae the chlamydospores, and in Uredineae the teleutospores, each contain two nuclei when young, which fuse as the spores mature. In young asci a similar fusion of two nuclei occurs, and also in basidia, in each case the nucleus of the ascus or of the basidium resulting from the fusion subsequently giving rise by division to the nuclei of the ascospores and basidiospores respectively. The significance of these fusions will be discussed under the various groups. Nuclear division is usually accompanied by all the essential features of karyokinesis. Spores.—No agreement has ever been arrived at regarding the consistent use of the term spore. This is apparently owing to the facts that too much has been attempted in the definition, and that differences arise according as we aim at a morphological or a physiological definition. Physiologically, any cell or group of cells separated off from a hypha or unicellular fungus, and capable of itself growing out—germinating—to reproduce the fungus, is a spore; but it is evident that so wide a definition does not exclude the ordinary vegetative cells of sprouting fungi, such as yeasts, or small sclerotium like cell-aggregates of forms like Coniothecium. Morphologically considered, spores are marked by peculiarities of form, size, colour, place of origin, definiteness in number, mode of preparation, and so forth, such that they can be distinguished more or less sharply from the hyphae which produce them. The only physiological peculiarity exhibited in common by all spores is that they germinate and initiate the production of a new fungus-plant. Whether a spore results from the sexual union of two similar gametes (zygospore) or from the fertilization of an egg-cell by the protoplasm of a male organ (oospore); or is developed asexually as a motile (zoospore) or a quiescent body cut off from a hypha (conidium) or developed along its course (oidium or chlamydospore), or in its protoplasm (endospore), are matters of importance which have their uses in the classification and terminology of spores, though in many respects they are largely of academic interest. Klebs has attempted to divide spores into three categories as follows: (I) kinospores, arising by relatively simple cell-divisions and subserving rapid dissemination and propagation, e.g. zoospores, conidia, endogonidia, stylospores, &c.; (2) paulospores, due to simple rearrangement of cell-contents, and subserving the persistence of the fungus through periods of exigency, e.g. gemmae, chlamydo- spores, resting-cells, cysts, &c.; (3) carpospores, produced by a more or less complex formative process, often in special fructifca- tions, and subserving either or both multiplication and persistence, e.g. zygospores, oospores, brand-spores, aecidiospores, ascospores, basidiospores, &c. Little or nothing is gained by these definitions, however, which are especially physiological. In practice these various kinds of spores of fungi receive further special names in the separate groups, and names, more- over, which will appear, to those unacquainted with the history, to have been given without any consistency or regard to general principles; nevertheless, for ordi- nary purposes these names are far more useful in most cases, owing to their descriptive character, than the proposed new names, which have been only partially accepted. Sporophores.—In some of the simpler fungi the spores are not borne on or in hyphae which can be distinguished from the vegetative parts or mycelium, but in the vast majority of cases the sporogenous hyphae either ascend free into the air or radiate into the surrounding water as distinct branches, or are grouped into special columns, cushions, layers or complex masses obviously different in colour, consistency, shape and other characters from the parts which gather up and assimilate the food-materials. The term " receptacle " sometimes applied to these spore-bearing hyphae is better replaced by sporophore. The sporophore is obsolete when the spore-bearing hyphae are not sharply distinct from the mycelium, simple when the constituent hyphae are isolated, and compound when the latter are conjoined. The chief distinctive characters of the sporogenous hyphae are their orientation, usually vertical; their limited apical growth; their peculiar branching, form, colour, contents, consistency; and their spore-production. According to the characters of the last, we might theoretically divide them into conidiophores, sporangiophores, gametophores, oidiophores, &c.; but since the two latter rarely occur, and more than one kind of spore or spore-case may occur on a sporophore, it is impossible to carry such a scheme fully into practice. A simple sporophore may be merely a single short hypha, the end of which stops growing and becomes cut off as a conidium by the formation of a, septum, which then splits and allows the conidium to fall. More generally the hypha below the septum grows forwards again, and repeats this process several times before the terminal conidium falls, and so a chain of conidia results, the oldest of which terminates the series (Erysiphe) ; when the primary branch has thus formed a basipetal series, branches may arise from below and again repeat this process, thus forming a tuft (Penicillium). Or the primary hypha may first swell at its apex, and put forth a series of short peg-like branches (sterigmata) from the increased surface thus provided, each of which develops a similar basipetal chain of conidia (Aspergillus), and various combinations of these processes result in the development of numerous varieties of exquisitely branched sporophores of this type (Botrytis, Botryosporium, Verticillium, &c.). A second type is developed as follows: the primary hypha forms a septum below its apex as before, and the terminal conidium, thus abstricted, puts out a branch at its apex, which starts as a mere point and rapidly swells to a second conidium; this repeats the process, and so on, so that we now have a chain of conidia developed in acropetal succession, the oldest being below, and, as in Penicillium, &c., branches put forth lower down may repeat the process (Hormodendron). In all these cases we may speak of simple conidiophores. The simple sporophore does not necessarily terminate in conidia, however. In Mucor, for example, the end of the primary hypha swells into a spheroidal head (sporangium), the protoplasm of which os, Oosphere. an, Antheridium. C. Formation of zoospores by oospores. z, Free zoospores. (After De Bary.) undergoes segmentation into more or less numerous globular masses, each of which secretes an enveloping cell-wall and becomes a spore (endospore), and branched systems of sporangia may arise as before (Thamnidium). Such may be termed sporangiophores. In Sporodinia the branches give rise also to short branches, which meet and fuse their contents to form zygospores. In Peronospora, Saprolegnia, &c., the ends of the branches swell up into sporangia, which develop zoospores in their interior (zoosporangia), or their contents become oospheres, which may be fertilized by the contents of other branches (antheridia) and so form egg-cases (oogonia). Since in such cases the sporophore bears sexual cells, they may be conveniently termed gametophores. Compound sporophores arise when any of the branched or unbranched types of spore-bearing hyphae described above ascend into the air in consort, and are more or less crowded into definite layers, cushions, columns or other complex masses. The same laws apply to the individual hyphae and their branches as to simple sporophores, and as long as the conidia, sporangia, gametes, &c., are borne on their external surfaces, it is quite consistent to speak of these as compound sporophores, &c., in the sense described, how-ever complex they may become. Among the simplest cases are the sheet-like aggregates of sporogenous hyphae in Puccinia, Uromyces, &c., or of basidia in Exobasidium, Corticium, &c., or of asci in Exoascus, Ascocorticium, &c. In the former, where the layer is small, it is often termed a sorus, but where, as in the latter, the sporogenous layer is extensive, and spread out more or less sheet-like on the supporting tissues, it is more frequently termed a hymenium. Another simple case is that of the columnar aggregates of sporogenous hyphae in forms like Stilbum, Coremium, &c. These lead A. a, Conidia. b, Conidiophores. c, Conidium emitting zoo-spores. d, Free zoospore. B.og, Oogonium. 336 us to cases where the main mass of the sporophore forms a supporting .tissue of closely crowded or interwoven hyphae, the sporogenous .terminal parts of the hyphae being found at the periphery or apical regions only. Here we have the cushion-like type (stroma) of Nectria and many Pyrenomycetes, the clavate ' receptacle " of Clavaria, &c., passing into the complex forms met with in Sparassis, Xylaria, Polyporei, and Agaricini, &c. In these cases the compound sporophore is often termed the hymenophore, and its various parts demand special names (pileus, stipes, gills, pores, &c.) to denote peculiarities of distribution of the hymenium over the surface. Other series of modifications arise in which the tissues corresponding to the stroma invest the sporogenous hyphal ends, and thus enclose the spores, asci, basidia, &c., in a cavity. In the simplest case the stroma, after bearing its crop of conidia or oidia, develops ascogenous branches in the loosened meshes of its interior (e.g. Onygena). Another simply case is where the plane or slightly convex surface of the stroma rises at its margins and overgrows the sporogenous hyphal ends, so that the spores, asci, &c., come to lie in the depression of a cavity—e.g. Solenia, Cyphella—and even simpler cases are met with in Mortierella, where the zygospore is invested by the overgrowth of a dense mat of closely branching hyphae, and in Gymnoascus, where a loose mat of similarly barren hyphae covers in the tufts of asci as they develop. In such examples as the above we may regard the hymenium (Solenia, Cyphella), zygospores, or asci as truly invested by later growth, but in the vast majority of cases the processes which result in the enclosure of the spores, asci, &c., in a " fructification " are much more involved, inasmuch as the latter is developed in the interior of hyphal tissues, which are by no means obviously homologous with a stroma. Thus in Penicillium, Eurotium, Erysiphe, &c., hyphal ends which are the initials of ascogenous branches, are invested by closely packed branches at an early stage of development, and the asci develop inside what has by that time become a complete investment. Whether a true sexual process precedes these processes or not does not affect the present question, the point being that the resulting spheroidal " fructification " (cleistocarp, perithecium) has a definite wall of its own not directly comparable with a stroma. In other cases (Hypomyces, Nectria) the perithecia arise on an already mature stroma, while yet more numerous examples can be given (Poronia, Hypoxylon, Claviceps, &c.) where the perithecia originate below the surface of a stroma formed long before. Similarly with the various types of conidial or oidial " fructifications," termed pycnidia, spermogonia, aecidia, &c. In the simplest of these cases—e.g. Fumago—a single mycelial cell divides by septa in all three planes until a more or less solid clump results. Then a hollow appears in the centre owing to the more rapid extension of the outer parts, and into this hollow the cells lining it put forth short sporogenous branches, from the tips of which the spores (stylospores, conidia, spermatia) are abstricted. In a similar way are developed the pycnidia of Cicinnobolus, Pleospora, Cucurbitaria, Leptosphaeria and others. In other cases (Diplodia, Aecidium, &c.) conidial or oidial " fructifications " arise by a number of hyphae interweaving themselves into a knot, as if they were forming a sclerotium. The outer parts of the mass then differentiate as a wall or investment, and the interior becomes a hollow, into which hyphal ends grow and abstrict the spores. Much more complicated are the processes in a large series of " fructifications," where the mycelium first develops a densely packed mass of hyphae, all alike, in which labyrinths of cavities subsequently form by separation of hyphae in the previously homogeneous mass, and the hymenium covers the walls of these cavities and passages as with a lining layer. Meanwhile differences in consistency appear in various strata, and a dense outer protective layer (peridium), soft gelatinous layers, and so on are formed, the whole eventually attaining great complexity—e.g. puff-balls, earth-stars and various Phalloideae. Spore-Distribution.—Ordinary conidia and similarly abstricted dry spores are so minute, light and numerous that their dispersal is ensured by any current of air or water, and we also know that rats and other burrowing animals often carry them on their fur; similarly with birds, insects, slugs, worms, &c., on claws, feathers, proboscides, &c., or merely adherent to the slimy body. In addition to these accidental modes of dispersal, however, there is a series of interesting adaptations on the part of the fungus itself. Passing over the locomotor activity of zoospores (Pythium, Peranospora, Saprolegnia) we often find spores held under tension in sporangia (Pilobolus) or in asci (Peziza) until ripe, and then forcibly shot out by the sudden rupture of the sporangial wall under the pressure of liquid behind—mechanism comparable to that of a pop-gun, if we suppose air replaced by watery sap. Even a single conidium, held tense to the last moment by the elastic cell-wall, may be thus shot forward by a spurt of liquid under pressure in the hypha abstricting it (e.g. Empusa), and similarly with basidiospores (Coprinus, Agaricus, &c.). A more complicated case is illustrated by Sphaerobolus, where the entire mass of spores, enclosed in its own peridium, is suddenly shot up into the air like a bomb from a mortar by the elastic retroversion of a peculiar layer which, up to the last moment, surrounded the bomb, and then suddenly splits above, turns inside out, and drives the former as a projectile from a gun. Gelatinous or mucilaginous degenerations of cell=walls are frequently employed in the interests of spore dispersal. The mucilage surroundingendospores of Mucor, conidia of Empusa, &c., serves to gum the spore to animals. Such gums are formed abundantly in pycnidia, and, absorbing water, swell and carry out the spores in long tendrils, which emerge for days and dry as they reach the air, the glued spores gradually being set free by rain, wind, &c. In oidial chains (Sclerotinia) a minute double wedge of wall-substance arises in the middle lamella between each pair of contiguous oidia, and by its enlargement splits the separating lamella. These disjunctors serve as points of application for the elastic push of the swelling spore-ends, and as the connecting outer lamella of cell-wall suddenly gives way, the spores are jerked asunder. In many cases the slimy masses of spermatia (Uredineae), conidia (Claviceps), basidiospores (Phallus, Coprinus), &c., emit more or less powerful odours, which attract flies or other insects, and it has been shown that bees carry the fragrant oidia of Sclerotinia to the stigma of Vaccinium and infect it, and that flies carry away the foetid spores of Phallus, just as pollen is dispersed by such insects. Whether the strong odour of trimethylamine evolved by the spores of Tilletia attracts insects is not known. The recent observations and exceedingly ingenious experiments of Falck have shown that the sporophores of the Basidiomycetesespecially the large sporophores of such forms as Boletus, Polyporuscontain quantities of reserve combustible material which are burnt up by the active metabolism occurring when the fruit-body is ripe. By this means the temperature of the sporophore is raised and the difference between it and the surrounding air may be one of several degrees. As a result convection currents are produced in the air which are sufficient to catch the basidiospores in their fall and carry them, away from the regions of comparative atmospheric stillness near the ground, to the upper air where more powerful air-currents can bring about their wide distribution. Classification.—It has been accepted for some time now that the majority of the fungi proper fall into three main groups, the Phycomycetes, Ascomycetes and Basidiomycetes, the Schizomycetes and Myxomycetes (Mycetozoa) being considered as independent groups not coming under the true fungi. The chief schemes of classification put forward in detail have been those of P. A. Saccardo (1882-1892), of Oskar Brefeld and Von Tavel (1892), of P. E. L. Van Tieghem (1893) and of J. Schroeter (1892). The scheme of Brefeld, which was based on the view that the Ascomycetes and Basidiomycetes were completely asexual and that these two groups had been derived from one division (Zygomycetes) of the Phycomycetes, has been very widely accepted. The recent work of the last twelve years has shown, however, that the two higher groups of fungi exhibit distinct sexuality, of either a normal or reduced type, and has also rendered very doubtful the view of the origin of these two groups from the Phycomycetes. The real difficulty of classification of the fungi lies in the polyphyletic nature of the group. There is very little doubt that the primitive fungi have been derived by degradation from the lower algae. It appears, however, that such a degradation has occurred not only once in evolution but on several occasions, so that we have in the Phycomycetes not a series of naturally related forms, but groups which have arisen perfectly independently of one another from various groups of the algae. It is also possible in the absence of satisfactory intermediate forms that the Ascomycetes and Basidiomycetes have also been derived from the algae independently of the Phycomycetes, and perhaps of one another. A natural classification on these lines would obviously be very complicated, so that in the present state of our knowledge it will be best to retain the three main groups mentioned above, bearing in mind that the Phycomycetes especially are far from being a natural group. The following gives a tabular survey of the scheme adopted in the present article: A. PHYCOMYCETES. Alga-like fungi with unicellular thallus and well-marked sexual organs.
End of Article: FUNGI (p1. of Lat. fungus, a mushroom)
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