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Introduction to Fungal Biology
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Terms you will want to know to read primary literature will be found here.

absorptive nutrition- describes a way of obtaining energy and nutrients in which digestive enzymes are secreted into a substrate, then smaller, easily assimilated molecules are absorbed through the cell membrane.

algae- diverse group of photosynthetic organisms that are neither true plants nor bacteria

anamorph- reproductive structure of a fungus growing asexually

asexual- reproducing without combining or exchanging DNA with another individual of the species

ascospore- reproductive cell of ascomycetes that is carried in an ascus (sac) usually in a group of 8.

basidium- microscopic, sexual reproductive structure of basidomycetes that bears (usually 4) basidiospores

biodiversity- the sum of the different species or genotypes of life within a group or area

bracket- fungal fruiting body morphology that appears as a shelf protruding from a tree trunk or other woody substrate.

budding- method of mitotic asexual reproduction in which a new cell is formed as a small outgrowth of the parent cell.

carnivorous-nutritional mode consisting of consuming animal flesh.

chitin- complex structural molecule composed of branched chains of N-acetyl glucosamine. Chitin composes the cell wall of fungi and the exoskeleton of arthropods.

clamp connection- backward growing short hyphal projections on many dikaryotic basidiomycetes that are involved in distributing equal pairings of nuclei to individual cells.

commensalism- symbiotic interaction in which the host is unaffected by the presence of another organism which benefits from the relationship.

conidium- asexual, spore-bearing reproductive structures produced by mitotic cellular division in mycelia.

cryptic species- a genetically distinct species that appears to be a member of another, well known species because of similar morphological features and usually common ancestry

decomposer- an organism that obtains carbon nutrition from the breakdown of dead organic matter.

dimorphic- having two forms, for example a unicellular form and a filamentous form.

eukaryotic -Composed of cell(s) with a membrane-bound nucleus and organelles.

eukaryotic flagellum (see undulipodium)

filamentous- cells arranged in long threads.

fruiting body- multicellular structure specialized for reproduction.

heterotrophic- pertaining to organisms that obtain carbon nutrition by consuming organic matter.

hypha- thread of structureally and nutritionally connected cells of fungi

lichen- Diverse group of symbioses between fungi and a unicellular photosynthetic organism such as an algae or cyanobacterium

meiosis- type of cellular division giving rise to four unique haploid daughter cells.

meiospore- spore generated by meiotic division.

mitochondria -Cellular organelle, derived from symbiotic bacteria, responsible for the high production of ATP energy in Eukaryotes through the use of oxygen.

mitosis- type of cellular division giving rise to two identical daughter cells.

mitospore- spore generated by mitotic division.

mold- common name for diverse group of fungi that grow (usually asexually) on commercial or domestic products such as food, paper or movie film.

morphological criteria -aspects of an organism's shape or organization that can be used to group similar organisms and classify them.

motile- able to move about

multicellular- made up of multiple or many cells working together, sometimes with one or more specialized functions of individual cell types

multicellular fruitbody- A reproductive structure large enough to be seen with the naked eye such as a mushroom.

mushroom- common name for the multicellular fruitbody of most ascomycetes and especially basidiomycetes

mutualism- type of symbiotic relationship that benefits both the host and symbiont.

mycelium- aka thallus, the vegetative part of a fungus usually visualized as a mat of interconnected hyphae of an individual fungus.

necrotrophic- nutritional mode involving the killing of host tissue followed by saprotrophically consuming the resultant dead matter.

parasitism- type of symbiotic relationship in which the host is adversely affected by the symbiont which benefits from the association.

pathogen- an organism that causes disease

photosynthetic- describing organisms able to make their own food through sunlight energy. These organisms "fix" carbon from the atmosphere to make organic molecules.

puffball- form of mushroom in which spores are enclosed in a tough outer sac until they are released through a break or pore in the fruit body.

rhizomorph- root-like organization of hyphae that allows greater potential for environmental exploration and nutrient transport.

saprotrophic- nutrtitional mode in which dead or extruded organic material is absorbed from surroundings.

sclerotium- a vegetative ball of hyphae, sometimes including symbiotic host tissue that serves as a resting or resistant phase, but not reproductive.

shmoo- describes the shape of budding yeast cells. From the cartoon "The Incredible Schmoo".

septum- wall, often with a gateway, dividing individual cells in hyphae

sexual- relating to genetic recombination between individuals. In sexual reproduction, recombination occurs between compatible members of a biological species.

species- the lowest taxonomical grouping of organisms. Sometimes refers to interbreeding populations of organisms.


sporangium- a specialized cell which produces a spore (spores).

substrate- for a fungus, both its home and its food. The material, substance or object that the fungus is growing on or in and digesting.

symbiont- an organism living in symbioisis

Symbiosis- "...the acquisition of one organism by another unlike organism and through their subsequent longterm intimacy develop novel metabolism and structures." (D. Zook, 1998. see link.)

terrestrial- living on land

thallus- the overall form taken by the mycelium of a fungus. The "body" of the fungus.

undulipodium - term devised to differentiate between the specialized organelle of movement that protrudes from motile eukaryotic cells and true bacterial flagella. They are similar to true bacterial flagella (rotating protein filaments) only by analogy. All undulipodia demonstrate the characteristic 9+2 arrangement of microtubules, ensheathed by the plasma membrane.

unicellular- cells not attached by strong bonds. Independently acting individual cells.

white rot- type of wood decay in which both cellulose and lignin are degraded.

yeast- saprotrophic, unicellular fungi of the Ascomycota or Basidiomycota

Zoospore- reproductive cell capable of creating its own movement

zygospore- large reproductive spore made by the zygomycetes (zygo means yoke, as in two oxen yoked together), where two compatible hyphae meet.






















All content © 2005 AFTOL (Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life Project). Website managed by Jason Slot. AFTOL logo designed by Michal Skakuj. Contact Dr. David Hibbett with any questions. This page was last modified on 08/31/05. Development of this site is being supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation for research in fungal evolutionary biology (NSF award number DEB-0228657).