Not most fungi reproduce using spores, tiny

Not every organism gets to decide between reproducing sexually or asexually, and that makes fungi pretty special. In this lesson we are going to look at different forms of fungi propagation and discover how each works, as well as when and why fungi use each.

Fungi Propagation

Where do baby fungi come from? Well, when a mommy fungus and a daddy fungus love each other very much…or when just one fungus is lonely…well there’s this stork, see? Hmm. This is going to be harder than I thought. As it turns out, fungi, nonphotosynthetic organisms that decompose food before absorbing it, have a lot of choices when it comes to reproduction. This is because most fungi can reproduce both sexually, requiring two parents to mix genes, and asexually, with only one parent.

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Not many living things can do both, but the fungi can.Either way, most fungi reproduce using spores, tiny reproductive units capable of growing into mature organisms. Spores are sort of like seeds, but smaller and lighter. Some fungi can release literally trillions of spores at a time, which are dispersed over wind or water or by latching onto passing creatures.

I guess that means that a stork actually could deliver a baby fungus.

Asexual Reproduction

Fungi are unique in being able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. So, how do each of these systems work? Well, let’s start with asexual reproduction, which is sort of the default setting for fungi. When conditions are favorable, so when the environment is moist and there are plenty of nutrients for the fungus to feed on, then it will reproduce asexually.

It does this by creating haploid spores, meaning they only have one set of chromosomes. In normal sexual reproduction, the offspring get one set of chromosomes from each parent, so this means that haploid spores only have genes from a single parent, making them genetically identical to that parent. This haploid spore is dispersed by the parent fungus and won’t germinate until it lands in favorable growing conditions. But once it does, it already has everything it needs to grow into a full, functioning adult fungus.The vast majority of fungi reproduce asexually with haploid spores. However, a few unicellular fungi like yeast have a different form of asexual reproduction.

Budding, in which part of the cell divides creating a new individual, is the other way that a few fungi can asexually reproduce. Part of the parent cell divides, creating a bud (a genetic clone that will eventually grow into an adult cell), and when it does, detaches itself from the parent.

Sexual Reproduction

Now, it’s pretty cool that fungi can just clone themselves, but this is not a viable long-term evolutionary practice. Eventually, you need some genetic diversity so the species can adapt and evolve. So, sexual reproduction is also important.

This happens by fusing together different haploid hyphae, long, thin cells that form filaments that make up the fungus’ body. A group of hyphae is called a mycelium, and sexual reproduction begins when two mycelium fuse together. This stage is called plasmogamy, when two haploid hyphae merge into one, resulting in a single cell with two nuclei. After this occurs, the new cell enters the stage of karyogamy, and the two nuclei fuse into one.So, now this cell has a single nucleus but two sets of chromosomes, one from each parent, making it a diploid cell. From here, the cell undergoes meiosis, cell division reducing the number of chromosomes back to a single set. Finally, we have a haploid cell with a single set of chromosomes that is genetically different from the parent.

This then becomes a spore and is dispersed into the world.

Lesson Summary

Not many organisms have a choice when it comes to how to produce offspring. However, fungi, nonphotosynthetic organisms that decompose food before absorbing it, do.

Most fungi can reproduce both sexually, requiring two parents to mix genes, and asexually, with only one parent.For the most part, reproduction involves creating spores, tiny reproductive units which are sort of like seeds but are smaller and lighter. Asexual reproduction occurs when haploid spores, spores with one set of chromosomes, are released by the fungus. Once these spores germinate, they will create an adult that is genetically identical to the parent.However, most fungi can also reproduce sexually by fusing together haploid hyphae, long, thin cells that form filaments that make up the fungus’ body.

This starts with plasmogamy, as two haploid hyphae merge into one, resulting in a single cell with two nuclei. Next comes karyogamy, when the two nuclei fuse into one. From here, the cell undergoes meiosis, cell division reducing the number of chromosomes back to a single set, creating a spore that is genetically different from the parent.

So, that’s how fungi reproduce. No stork needed.

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