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Symbiotic Fungi--------Saprotrophic Fungi-------Carnivorous Fungi

Introduction to fungal ecological strategies


All fungi are heterotrophic, which means that they get the energy they need to live from other organisms. Like animals, fungi extract the energy stored in the bonds of organic compounds such as sugar and protein from living or dead organisms. Many of these compounds can also be recycled for further use.

Fungi have evolved diverse strategies for obtaining organic (carbon-based) compounds, however. Broadly, fungi are either saprotrophs (saprobes), which decay dead organic matter, or symbionts, which obtain carbon from living organisms.

A polypore mushroom is attacked by a parasitic fungus.

A few fungi attack small living organisms so aggressively that they have been called carnivorous.

Many fungi defy easy categorization, acting as saprotrophs, symbionts, or carnivores at various stages of their life cycles, or in interactions with different organisms.

Necrotrophic fungi act both as symbionts and saprotrophs. These fungi infect a living host, which they kill over time, then continue to consume of the dead tissues of the host.

Continue on to Symbiotic Fungi...

Symbiotic Fungi--------Saprotrophic Fungi-------Carnivorous Fungi

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).