Fungi

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Physiology of a fungal organism

A fungal organism consists of a mass of threadlike filaments called hyphae, which combine to make up the fungal mycelium. Each hypha is composed of a chain of fungal cells, or, in some organisms, a continuous cytoplasm with many nuclei. The hypha is surrounded by a plasma membrane and a cell wall, which is made of the polysaccharide chitin, in contrast to plant cell walls made of cellulose. The hyphae in a fungus branch off one another to form the mycelium, and are all ultimately connected to the original hypha. Though fungal cells and hyphae are nonmotile, and never have flagellated cells of any kind, a fungal mycelium can expand quickly through very rapid mitotic growth, adding up to a kilometre of new hyphae per day. For large underground mycelia, fruiting bodies grow above ground, such as the mushroom, which is only an extension of an underground mycelium. These fruiting bodies are the reproductive structures of the mycelium.

Due to the structure of the hyphae, the mycelium has a very high surface area to mass ratio, despite its large size. This allows the fungus to absorb large quantities of nutrients from its surroundings, after secreting digestive enzymes and digesting its food outside of its body. This ability to intake large quantities of nutrients despite a growing size is one of the prime reasons for the rapidity of mycelial growth.

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