Classification of the Fungi

The Fungi are arranged into four major phyla on the basis of differences in their sexual reproduction. These are:

Zygomycota 1


The term saprobe describes an organism that feeds on dead and decaying organic materials. The older term saprophyte is no longer used, since the name perpetuates the idea of fungi being plants (phyton = a plant). Saprobes contribute greatly to the recycling of carbon and other elements.

can function as facultative

Ascomycota Basidiomycota

'Higher Fungi'

Members of the different fungal phyla are given the suffix -cetes, e.g. as-comycetes.

The designation 'higher' and 'lower' Fungi, is an unofficial distinction based on the fact that the latter two (much larger) groups possess septate hyphae. In some books, you may come across references to a group called the Deuteromycota or Fungi Imperfecti. This is not a taxonomic grouping, but a 'holding area' for species in which only an asexual stage has been recognised, and which cannot therefore be assigned to any of the above groups. It is now possible, however, by means of DNA analysis, to place such species with their nearest relatives, mostly in the Ascomycota or Basidiomycota.

In the following pages, we shall look at each of the phyla in turn, concentrating particularly on their life cycles.

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