Fungi, or Eumycota (eu = true; mykes = fungus), are eukaryotic organisms that lack chlorophyll. Being nonphotosynthetic, fungi depend on the products of other organisms, either living or dead, for food. Their ability to break down and utilize a wide variety of complex compounds accounts for their being able to live on a myriad of organic substrates. While fungi are ubiquitous as a group, the individual species usually are more limited in their nutritional tolerances. Fungi are of great economic importance. Some are parasites of animals and man. Many are virulent parasites of crop plants, resulting in considerable loss of food to man. Some fungi have by-products such as antibiotics and organic acids which man can use. Yeasts are indispensable to baking and brewing industries. Characteristic flavors of cheeses result from the presence of certain fungi; for example, Roquefort and Camembert cheeses are flavored (and colored) by the growths in the cheeses of Penicillium roqueforti and P. camemberti, respectively. A large industry is devoted to the culture of mushrooms for market. In addition, several fungi, such as morels and truffles, are highly prized by gourmets.
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