Most fungi are saprophytic, which means they feed on decaying organic substances. However, fungi can also be parasitic, where they invade a living host and obtain nourishment, often causing damage to function and structure.
Parasitic fungi can affect plants and animals alike, with the most striking example being the Cordyceps genus. Most members of this genus grow on the larvae of insects. The way these parasites invade their host is quite gruesome – once they infect a host, they slowly replace the host’s tissue, sprouting long, slender growths that extend from the host’s body. Such fungi are also called entomopathogenic fungi – which refers to fungi that live on insects.
Parasitic fungi that live on animals are called zoo-pathogenic fungi. These fungi include ringworm, favus, epidermophytosis and tinea versicolor. Fungi from the genera Candida are known to cause mycoses of the skin, nails, mucous membranes and other parts of the body. Parasitic fungi from the genera Sporotrichum and Blastomyces also attack the subcutaneous cell tissues, internal organs as well as muscles and bones of humans and animals.
Parasitic fungi that live on plants are called phytopathogenic fungi. Interestingly, fungi feed on other fungi; this form of behaviour is called Mycoparasitism. For instance, members of the genus Trichoderma produce powerful enzymes which have the ability to break down cell walls of other fungi. Moreover, they are able to find other fungi, and consequently grow towards them. They bind themselves to the other fungi’s hyphae of other fungi and form a specialized type of cell called the appressorium.Then, the trichoderma inject toxic enzymes into the host, which creates perforations in the cell wall, allowing the fungi to thrive inside its host, and in most cases, it can kill the host.
Frequently Asked Questions on Parasitic Fungi
What are Parasitic Fungi?
What are the types of parasitic fungi?
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