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Temporal range: Early
A collage of five fungi (clockwise from top left): a mushroom with a flat red top with white spots and a white stem growing on the ground; a red cup-shaped fungus growing on wood; a stack of green and white moldy bread slices on a plate; a microscopic spherical grey semitransparent cell with a smaller spherical cell beside it; a microscopic view of an elongated cellular structure shaped like a microphone, attached to the larger end is a number of smaller roughly circular elements that collectively form a mass around it
Clockwise from top left:
Scientific classification e
Clade: Obazoa
(unranked): Opisthokonta
Clade: Holomycota
Kingdom: Fungi
(L.) R.T.Moore[1]

A fungus (

molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom,[4] separately from the other eukaryotic kingdoms, which by one traditional classification include Plantae, Animalia, Protozoa, and Chromista

A characteristic that places fungi in a different kingdom from plants, bacteria, and some protists is

monophyletic group), an interpretation that is also strongly supported by molecular phylogenetics. This fungal group is distinct from the structurally similar myxomycetes (slime molds) and oomycetes (water molds). The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology (from the Greek μύκης mykes, mushroom). In the past, mycology was regarded as a branch of botany
, although it is now known fungi are genetically more closely related to animals than to plants.

Abundant worldwide, most fungi are inconspicuous because of the small size of their structures, and their

rice blast disease) or food spoilage can have a large impact on human food supplies
and local economies.

The fungus kingdom encompasses an enormous diversity of



The English word fungus is directly adopted from the

macroscopic structures and morphology of mushrooms and molds;[9] the root is also used in other languages, such as the German Schwamm ('sponge') and Schimmel ('mold').[10]

The word mycology is derived from the Greek mykes (μύκης 'mushroom') and logos (λόγος 'discourse').[11] It denotes the scientific study of fungi. The Latin adjectival form of "mycology" (mycologicæ) appeared as early as 1796 in a book on the subject by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon.[12] The word appeared in English as early as 1824 in a book by Robert Kaye Greville.[13] In 1836 the English naturalist Miles Joseph Berkeley's publication The English Flora of Sir James Edward Smith, Vol. 5. also refers to mycology as the study of fungi.[9][14]

A group of all the fungi present in a particular region is known as

Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in August 2021 asked that the phrase fauna and flora be replaced by fauna, flora, and funga.[17]


Fungal cell cycle showing Dikaryons typical of Higher Fungi

Before the introduction of

mosses. The fungi are now considered a separate kingdom, distinct from both plants and animals, from which they appear to have diverged around one billion years ago (around the start of the Neoproterozoic Era).[20][21]
Some morphological, biochemical, and genetic features are shared with other organisms, while others are unique to the fungi, clearly separating them from the other kingdoms:

Shared features:

Unique features:

Most fungi lack an efficient system for the long-distance transport of water and nutrients, such as the

sequence and other characteristics, which indicates separate origins and convergent evolution of these enzymes in the fungi and plants.[38][40]


Bracket fungi
on a tree stump

Fungi have a worldwide distribution, and grow in a wide range of habitats, including extreme environments such as

hydrothermal areas of the ocean.[46]

chemical tests. The biological species concept discriminates species based on their ability to mate. The application of molecular tools, such as DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis, to study diversity has greatly enhanced the resolution and added robustness to estimates of genetic diversity within various taxonomic groups.[51]


phytopathology, the study of plant diseases, is closely related because many plant pathogens are fungi.[52]

The use of fungi by humans dates back to prehistory;

Piptoporus betulinus).[53] Ancient peoples have used fungi as food sources—often unknowingly—for millennia, in the preparation of leavened bread and fermented juices. Some of the oldest written records contain references to the destruction of crops that were probably caused by pathogenic fungi.[54]


Mycology became a systematic science after the development of the

Louis René and Charles Tulasne, Arthur H. R. Buller, Curtis G. Lloyd, and Pier Andrea Saccardo. In the 20th and 21st centuries, advances in biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, biotechnology, DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis has provided new insights into fungal relationships and biodiversity, and has challenged traditional morphology-based groupings in fungal taxonomy.[57]


Microscopic structures

Most fungi grow as

coenocytic. Septate hyphae are divided into compartments separated by cross walls (internal cell walls, called septa, that are formed at right angles to the cell wall giving the hypha its shape), with each compartment containing one or more nuclei; coenocytic hyphae are not compartmentalized.[59] Septa have pores that allow cytoplasm, organelles, and sometimes nuclei to pass through; an example is the dolipore septum in fungi of the phylum Basidiomycota.[60] Coenocytic hyphae are in essence multinucleate supercells.[61]

Many species have developed specialized hyphal structures for nutrient uptake from living hosts; examples include

haustoria in plant-parasitic species of most fungal phyla,[62] and arbuscules of several mycorrhizal fungi, which penetrate into the host cells to consume nutrients.[63]

Although fungi are

chytrids have lost their posterior flagella.[64] Fungi are unusual among the eukaryotes in having a cell wall that, in addition to glucans (e.g., β-1,3-glucan) and other typical components, also contains the biopolymer chitin.[36]

Macroscopic structures

Armillaria solidipes