They are under appreciated, they are hidden from the world, and they are something humans label as food. At the same time, however they are called a mold. Fungi, are growing day in and day out and unfortunately, human’s do not see or feel the need to give acknowledgment and appreciation where it needs to be. Yes, fungi are food and mold but at the same time, they provide a necessity for all life to live of earth.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Fungi have many different roles in the environment. First, they are natural decomposers. They decompose and recycle animal remains, and plants that are lying on the forest floor. They are important to the life cycle for fungi and some bacteria are the only creatures that take the nutrients from these dead organisms and give it back to the Earth. Fungi, are the primary decomposers of cellulose and lignin. Since most bacteria cannot break down these components, it is safe to say the fungi breakdown almost all the dead plants one see’s in their world. Since fungi break down plants, they also participate in the carbon cycle. If fungal decomposers were not on the earth, we would not be alive. Because fungal decomposers release nutrients into the surrounding environment, they maintain the cycle of plants conducting photosynthesis, dying, plants being decomposed, and carbon atoms being released into the atmosphere for this cycle to occur again. Fungi not only break down plant cellulose and lignin but as well as keratin found in animals. Without fungi, the world would be full of dead animals and plants.
Fungi is not only beneficial to the environment but to humans everywhere. Besides being a nutritious food source, they also help in the medical departments. Fungi’s role in managing disease in humans and in other animals is extremely important. Though there are some negative process such as not extracting the needed molecule for the medicine, fungi has still played an important role in keeping our body’s health and safe. Two examples of these fungi are Penicillium chrysogenum and Spergillius terreus.
In 1914, a fungus Penicillium chrysogenum was first used to treat infections caused by bacterium. This drug has successfully cured the infection and is now known as penicillin. Natural penicillins have man disadvantages though including destruction of stomach acid and also they can only be used on positive bacteria. However, because of recent manufacturing, they have developed penicillin for one to eat.
Fungi are not just used for antibiotics but as Statins as well. Statins are drugs that lower choloesteral levels by inhibiting the enzymes. The fungi used for this drug is called Aspergillius terreus. It is a soil-borne fungi that produces a metabolite called lovastatin. It also produced squalestain. This compound found in aspergillus and it helps remove cholesterol complexes from the inside of the blood vessels helping reduce the chance for heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
Be grateful for the fungi that do so much for the world but are not acknowledged for their help. Without these organisms life on earth would be drastically different. Fungi are able to keep our world going by reducing carcasses, providing food and even helping our physical health. Though they are not visible for all to see, they are superheros in their own accord.