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Mycology

Mycology

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Mycology is the branch of biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 concerned with the study of fungi
Fungus
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

, including their genetic
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 and biochemical
Biochemistry
Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes...

 properties, their taxonomy
Taxonomy
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

 and their use to humans
Ethnomycology
Ethnomycology is the study of the historical uses and sociological impact of fungi , and can be considered a subfield of ethnobotany or ethnobiology...

  as a source for tinder
Tinder
Tinder is easily combustible material used to ignite fires by rudimentary methods. A small fire consisting of tinder is then used to ignite kindling. Anything that can be ignited by a match can be considered tinder; or by more rigorous definition, anything that begins to glow under a shower of...

, medicinals
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 (e.g., penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

), food (e.g., beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

, wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

, cheese
Cheese
Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging flavors, textures, and forms....

, edible mushrooms
Mushroom
A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name "mushroom" is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word "mushroom" is most often applied to those fungi that...

) and entheogens, as well as their dangers, such as poison
Poison
In the context of biology, poisons are substances that can cause disturbances to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism....

ing or infection
Infection
An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

.

From mycology arose the field of phytopathology
Phytopathology
Plant pathology is the scientific study of plant diseases caused by pathogens and environmental conditions . Organisms that cause infectious disease include fungi, oomycetes, bacteria, viruses, viroids, virus-like organisms, phytoplasmas, protozoa, nematodes and parasitic plants...

, the study of plant diseases, and the two disciplines remain closely related because the vast majority of "plant" pathogens are fungi. A biologist studies mycology is called a mycologist.

Historically, mycology was a branch of botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

 because, although fungi are evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

arily more closely related to animals than to plants, this was not recognized until a few decades ago. Pioneer mycologists included Elias Magnus Fries
Elias Magnus Fries
-External links:*, Authors of fungal names, Mushroom, the Journal of Wild Mushrooming.*...

, Christian Hendrik Persoon
Christian Hendrik Persoon
Christiaan Hendrik Persoon was a mycologist who made additions to Linnaeus' mushroom taxonomy.-Early life:...

, Anton de Bary
Anton de Bary
Heinrich Anton de Bary was a German surgeon, botanist, microbiologist, and mycologist ....

 and Lewis David von Schweinitz
Lewis David von Schweinitz
Lewis David de Schweinitz was a German-American botanist and mycologist. He is considered by some the "Father of North American Mycology", but also made significant contributions to botany.-Education:...

.
Many fungi produce toxin
Toxin
A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms; man-made substances created by artificial processes are thus excluded...

s, antibiotics and other secondary metabolites
Secondary metabolism
Secondary metabolism is a term for pathways and small molecule products of metabolism that are not absolutely required for the survival of the organism. Examples of the products include antibiotics and pigments. To distinguish non-secondary metabolism, the term basic metabolism is sometimes used...

. For example the cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan distribution
In biogeography, a taxon is said to have a cosmopolitan distribution if its range extends across all or most of the world in appropriate habitats. For instance, the killer whale has a cosmopolitan distribution, extending over most of the world's oceans. Other examples include humans, the lichen...

 (worldwide) genus Fusarium
Fusarium
Fusarium is a large genus of filamentous fungi widely distributed in soil and in association with plants. Most species are harmless saprobes, and are relatively abundant members of the soil microbial community. Some species produce mycotoxins in cereal crops that can affect human and animal health...

and their toxins associated with fatal outbreaks of alimentary toxic aleukia in humans were extensively studied by Abraham Joffe.

Fungi are fundamental for life on earth in their roles as symbionts
Symbiosis
Symbiosis is close and often long-term interaction between different biological species. In 1877 Bennett used the word symbiosis to describe the mutualistic relationship in lichens...

, e.g. in the form of mycorrhiza
Mycorrhiza
A mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant....

e, insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

 symbionts and lichens. Many fungi are able to break down complex organic
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

 biomolecules such as lignin
Lignin
Lignin or lignen is a complex chemical compound most commonly derived from wood, and an integral part of the secondary cell walls of plants and some algae. The term was introduced in 1819 by de Candolle and is derived from the Latin word lignum, meaning wood...

, the more durable component of wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

, and pollutants such as xenobiotic
Xenobiotic
A xenobiotic is a chemical which is found in an organism but which is not normally produced or expected to be present in it. It can also cover substances which are present in much higher concentrations than are usual...

s, petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons , also known as poly-aromatic hydrocarbons or polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, are potent atmospheric pollutants that consist of fused aromatic rings and do not contain heteroatoms or carry substituents. Naphthalene is the simplest example of a PAH...

s. By decomposing these molecules, fungi play a critical role in the global carbon cycle
Carbon cycle
The carbon cycle is the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth...

.

Fungi and other organisms traditionally recognized as fungi, such as oomycetes and myxomycetes (slime molds), often are economically and socially important as some cause diseases of animals (such as histoplasmosis
Histoplasmosis
Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. Symptoms of this infection vary greatly, but the disease primarily affects the lungs...

) as well as plants (such as Dutch elm disease
Dutch elm disease
Dutch elm disease is a disease caused by a member of the sac fungi category, affecting elm trees which is spread by the elm bark beetle. Although believed to be originally native to Asia, the disease has been accidentally introduced into America and Europe, where it has devastated native...

 and Rice blast
Magnaporthe grisea
Magnaporthe grisea, also known as rice blast fungus, rice rotten neck, rice seedling blight, blast of rice, oval leaf spot of graminea, pitting disease, ryegrass blast, and Johnson spot, is a plant-pathogenic fungus that causes an important disease affecting rice. It is now known that M...

).

Field meetings to find interesting species of fungi are known as 'forays', after the first such meeting organized by the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club
Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club
The Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club is a local society devoted to the natural history, geology, archaeology, and history of Herefordshire, England...

 in 1868 and entitled "a foray among the fungi."

Some fungi can cause disease in humans or other organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s. The study of pathogenic fungi
Pathogenic fungi
Pathogenic fungi are fungi that cause disease in humans or other organisms. The study of pathogenic fungi is referred to as medical mycology. Although fungi are eukaryotic organisms many pathogenic fungi are also microorganisms.-Candida:...

 is referred to as medical mycology
Pathogenic fungi
Pathogenic fungi are fungi that cause disease in humans or other organisms. The study of pathogenic fungi is referred to as medical mycology. Although fungi are eukaryotic organisms many pathogenic fungi are also microorganisms.-Candida:...

.

History


Humans probably started collecting mushrooms
Mushroom hunting
Mushroom hunting, mushrooming, mushroom picking, and similar terms describe the activity of gathering mushrooms in the wild, typically for eating...

 as food in Prehistoric times. Mushrooms were first written about in the works of Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

 (480-406 B.C.). The Greek philosopher Theophrastos of Eressos (371-288 B.C.) was perhaps the first to try to systematically classify plants; mushrooms were considered to be plants that were missing certain organs. It was later Pliny the elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 (23–79 A.D.), who wrote about truffles in his encyclopedia Naturalis historia.

The Middle Ages saw little advancement in the body of knowledge about fungi. Rather, the invention of the printing press allowed some authors to disseminate superstitions and misconceptions about the fungi that had been perpetuated by the classical authors.
The start of the modern age of mycology begins with Pier Antonio Micheli
Pier Antonio Micheli
Pier Antonio Micheli was a noted Italian botanist, professor of botany in Pisa, curator of the Orto Botanico di Firenze, author of Nova plantarum genera iuxta Tournefortii methodum disposita...

's 1737 publication of Nova plantarum genera. Published in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, this seminal work laid the foundations for the systematic classification of grasses, mosses and fungi. The term mycology and the complementary mycologist were first used in 1836 by M.J. Berkeley
Miles Joseph Berkeley
Miles Joseph Berkeley was an English cryptogamist and clergyman, and one of the founders of the science of plant pathology....

.

Medicinal mycology



For centuries, certain mushrooms have been documented as a folk medicine in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. Although the use of mushrooms in folk medicine is largely centered on the Asian continent, people in other parts of the world like the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 have been documented using mushrooms for medicinal purposes. Certain mushrooms, especially polypores like Reishi were thought to be able to benefit a wide variety of health ailments. Medicinal mushroom research in the United States is currently active, with studies taking place at City of Hope National Medical Center
City of Hope National Medical Center
City of Hope National Medical Center, is a private, not-for-profit clinical research center, hospital and graduate medical school located in Duarte, California, United States...

, as well as the Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center.

Current research focuses on mushrooms that may have hypoglycemic
Blood sugar
The blood sugar concentration or blood glucose level is the amount of glucose present in the blood of a human or animal. Normally in mammals, the body maintains the blood glucose level at a reference range between about 3.6 and 5.8 mM , or 64.8 and 104.4 mg/dL...

 activity, anti-cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 activity, anti-pathogen
Pathogen
A pathogen gignomai "I give birth to") or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host...

ic activity, and immune system
Immune system
An immune system is a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. It detects a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish them from the organism's own...

 enhancing activity. Recent research has found that the oyster mushroom naturally contains the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin
Lovastatin
Lovastatin is a member of the drug class of statins, used for lowering cholesterol in those with hypercholesterolemia and so preventing cardiovascular disease...

, mushrooms produce large amounts of vitamin D
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids. In humans, vitamin D is unique both because it functions as a prohormone and because the body can synthesize it when sun exposure is adequate ....

 when exposed to UV light, and that certain fungi may be a future source of taxol. To date, penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

, lovastatin
Lovastatin
Lovastatin is a member of the drug class of statins, used for lowering cholesterol in those with hypercholesterolemia and so preventing cardiovascular disease...

, ciclosporin
Ciclosporin
Ciclosporin , cyclosporine , cyclosporin , or cyclosporin A is an immunosuppressant drug widely used in post-allogeneic organ transplant to reduce the activity of the immune system, and therefore the risk of organ rejection...

, griseofulvin
Griseofulvin
Griseofulvin is an antifungal drug that is administered orally. It is used both in animals and in humans, to treat fungal infections of the skin and nails...

, cephalosporin
Cephalosporin
The cephalosporins are a class of β-lactam antibiotics originally derived from Acremonium, which was previously known as "Cephalosporium".Together with cephamycins they constitute a subgroup of β-lactam antibiotics called cephems.-Medical use:...

, ergometrine, and statins are the most famous pharmaceuticals which have been isolated from the fungi
Fungus
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

 kingdom.

See also

  • Mycotoxicology
    Mycotoxicology
    Mycotoxicology is the branch of mycology that focuses on analyzing and studying the toxins produced by fungus, known as Mycotoxins. As many microorganisms, fungus produce toxins as a response of biological stress in the environment, like lower nutrients or competitions for those available,...

  • List of mycologists
  • List of mycology journals
  • Pathogenic fungi
    Pathogenic fungi
    Pathogenic fungi are fungi that cause disease in humans or other organisms. The study of pathogenic fungi is referred to as medical mycology. Although fungi are eukaryotic organisms many pathogenic fungi are also microorganisms.-Candida:...

  • Fungal Biochemical Tests
    Fungal Biochemical Tests
    The following are some systems currently being used for the identification of yeasts.*Carbohydrate fermentation studies:**This tests whether a certain yeast ferments different carbohydrates.*Carbohydrate assimilation studies:...

  • Protistology
    Protistology
    Protistology is a scientific discipline devoted to the study of protists. Its field of study overlaps with more traditional disciplines of phycology, mycology, and protozoology, just as protists, which, being a paraphyletic group embrace algae, some organisms regarded previously as primitive fungi,...

  • Medicinal mushrooms
    Medicinal mushrooms
    Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms, or mushroom extracts, that are used or studied as possible treatments for diseases. Lentinula edodes , Grifola frondosa , Ganoderma lucidum , and Cordyceps, have a history of medicinal use spanning millennia in parts of Asia...

  • Mushroom hunting
    Mushroom hunting
    Mushroom hunting, mushrooming, mushroom picking, and similar terms describe the activity of gathering mushrooms in the wild, typically for eating...


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