What are Fungi?

  • T. Cavalier-Smith
Part of the The Mycota book series (MYCOTA, volume 7A)


The idea that Fungi form a kingdom distinct from 5 plants and animals (Necker 1783) became widely accepted only recently (Whittaker 1969). Progress in defining a monophyletic kingdom Fungi has been even slower, because the two most obvious features of typical fungi, a trophic state consisting of walled hyphae and dispersion by aerial spores, have arisen polyphyletically and been lost or modified several times. Thus, the organisms traditionally studied by mycologists, and grouped in Whittaker’s kingdom, are polyphyletic. Some, notably Mycetozoa and Plasmodiophorida, are related to certain Protozoa more closely than to true fungi; others are evolutionarily closer to certain algae. Conversely, organisms often thought to be very distinct from fungi (notably lichens) or previously outside the domain of mycology and botany (namely Microsporidia, formerly regarded as Protozoa) turn out to be true fungi, whereas oomycete moulds and “white rusts” are not!


Polar Tube Slime Mould rRNA Tree True Fungus Aerial Spore 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Cavalier-Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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