Symbiont fungi

Many fungi are involved in close and long associations known as symbiotic associations, which are mutually beneficial to both organisms. Two of these associations, lichens and mycorrhizas, have enabled some photosynthetic organisms to colonise deserted environments.
Lichens are the combination of a fungus with a green alga or cyanobacteria; they are the first colonisers of bare rocky areas, they survive even when dry, they need light, air and mineral salts. The fungus makes it easier to absorb mineral salts and water as well as to maintain suitable conditions for the photosynthetic process, while the alga or bacterium supplies food in the form of by-products of the photosynthetic process.
Lichens are not only economically important, but they are also used as bio-indicators or to date geological events (such as landslides or the withdrawal of glaciers). They are winter food for reindeers in the Arctic regions, are used in perfumery and to produce some colours.
Mycorrhizas are associations between fungi and plant roots. The fungus uses the organic substances produced by the plant, supplies the plant with the minerals contained in the soil and makes it easier for the roots to absorb water.
Sometimes, these associations become vital for both organisms, as is the case for some orchids, whose seeds do not sprout without a specific symbiont fungus. In its turn, the fungus cannot grow without a plant.
A surprising association is the one that occurs between some species of fungi and some species of ants, such as, for instance, the Atta cephalotes. The ants collect and break up leaves and petals of flowers, on which grow special fungi that can only be found in ant nests, where they find the perfect conditions to spread.

Special reports

  • 26 October 2022

    Praising the meatball

    Let's learn to transform waste into resources!

    10 October 2022

    Spider lullaby

    There are spiders that weave a classic web, that one we all know, to catch prey. There are others who…

  • 19 September 2022

    Double blow to dinosaurs

    The Main Asteroid Belt is between Mars and Jupiter, an enormous ring consisting of millions of large and small rocks…

    24 May 2022

    Amphibians in peril

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warns: the extinction rate of amphibians is about 200 times greater than…

  • 8 March 2022

    8 March. We remember Rosalind Franklin, the great female DNA scientist.

    DNA was first isolated by Friedrich Miescher, a Swiss biochemist in 1869. It was a brilliant, but not complicated operation:…

    27 February 2022

    In search of the riders of icebergs

    International Polar Bear Day, set up by Polar Bears International, a non-profit organisation, was held on 27 February. The aim…

  • 26 October 2022

    Praising the meatball

    Let's learn to transform waste into resources!

  • 10 October 2022

    Spider lullaby

    There are spiders that weave a classic web, that one we all know, to catch prey. There are others who…

  • 19 September 2022

    Double blow to dinosaurs

    The Main Asteroid Belt is between Mars and Jupiter, an enormous ring consisting of millions of large and small rocks…

From the Multimedia section

Facts

  • 13 May 2011

    Decomposing organisms

    The ability to destroy organic matter has been used by man...

    Bread and cheese, wine or beer

    Yeast is used to make wine, beer and bread. When mixed with the bread dough...

  • Let’s eat!

    The economic importance of fungi is increased by the “edible” mushrooms...

    Predator mushroom

    <em>Pleutrotus ostreatus</em> mushroom does not have teeth or claws but it is...

  • Who lives well with low oxygen?

    <i><span style="font-style: normal; " class="Apple-style-span"><i><em>Aquandriella fermentas</em> </i>lives in stagnant waters and can stand complete anaerobiosis...</span></i>

    Responsible for fish-plagues

    <em>Sporolegnia parasitica</em> is widely present in estuaries and fish tanks and that...