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About Ascomycetes

Ascomycetes: Spore Shooters

by Kristina Kaye Maglabe

Ascomycetes are a group of fungi that are inside a sac that created microscopic spores. As the spores mature, it builds up the pressure inside the ascus (elongated cell or sac). The spores will then shoot out of the ascus up to about 30cm. Each ascus holds at least eight spores inside.

There are several variations for Ascomycetes. These can be distinguished on how the asci are being developed around the body. There are around 15,000 species of fungi belonging to the group. The most common of these are molds, yeasts, mildews and others. They account for 75% of all the fungi species.

These fungi get its nutrients from either dead or living organism. When water or carbon is present, it can thrive even with just jet fuel or wall paint. As a biotrophe, they can live off of plant roots, algae, foliage and stems of the plant.

The mycorrhizal fungi are very important for plants as these promote the development of the plant.  It is a win – win situation as the fungi gets nutrients from the plant and the plant develops with the help of the fungi. The endophytes are the fungi that live inside each plant. They live inside the host but they are not harmful. This helps the plant become more resistant to other pests.

Cup Fungi, Truffles and Earth tongues are mostly arranged on the surface of the plant. Some of these can also be called as mushrooms. Mushrooms are the type of fungi that are the most common, if not, most popular. Cordyceps fungi, Xylaria and Daldinia are positioned together into any flask-shaped plant. Through an ostiole, a small hole – like a pore, the asci are sunk in.

There are some arguments about whether a mushroom should be an ascomycete or basidiomycetes. Gilled mushrooms, pored, polypore and boletes are considered as basidiomycetes. The rest are ascomycete. It can be quite confusing when studying club shaped mushrooms. Even some scientists have a hard time categorizing the two.

Ascomycetes can be destructive. Some produce toxin spores that can contaminate nuts and grain. Another can produce a potent carcinogen. Some causes skin ailments like rashes, vaginitis and thrush. The worst case related to ascomycetes is the death of the 4 billion chestnut trees in the Eastern United States. Sour cherries can occur due to ascomycetes. Woolen textiles can fade due to an infection. Oranges rot because of Penicillium italicum. Ergot can devastate crops like wheat and rye. It is a poisonous and a carcinogenic, highly deadly if it is consumed. Lung infections in AIDS patients are caused by Epidermophyton.

These have several uses as well. They are the yeasts for brewing and baking. They are also used in soy. Fermentation of soy can produce soy sauce. Penicillin was discovered because Penicillium chrysogenum played a crucial role. Antibiotics are the most beneficial to humans. These ascomycetes produce enzymes that help fight bacteria. It is like a war between microorganisms.

Ascomycetes can be beneficial as well as destructive. Having the proper knowledge on how to use it to our advantage is a must.