Definitions

mycology

mycology

[mahy-kol-uh-jee]

Study of fungi (see fungus), including mushrooms and yeasts. Many fungi are useful in medicine and industry. Mycological research has led to the development of such antibiotic drugs as penicillin, streptomycin, and tetracycline. Mycology also has important applications in the dairy, wine, and baking industries and in the production of dyes and inks. Medical mycology is the study of fungus organisms that cause disease in humans.

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Mycology (from the Greek μύκης, meaning "fungus") is the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi, including their genetic and biochemical properties, their taxonomy, and their use to humans as a source for tinder, medicinals (e.g., penicillin), food (e.g., beer, wine, cheese, edible mushrooms) and entheogens, as well as their dangers, such as poisoning or infection. From mycology arose the field of phytopathology, the study of plant diseases, and the two disciplines remain closely related because the vast majority of plant pathogens are fungi. A biologist who studies mycology is called a mycologist.

Historically, mycology was a branch of botany (fungi are evolutionarily more closely related to animals than to plants but this was not recognized until a few decades ago). Pioneer mycologists included Elias Magnus Fries, Christian Hendrik Persoon, Anton de Bary and Lewis David von Schweinitz.

Today, the most comprehensively studied and understood fungi are the yeasts and eukaryotic model organisms Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

Many fungi produce toxins, antibiotics, and other secondary metabolites. For example, the cosmopolitan (worldwide) genus Fusarium 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, e.g. in the form of mycorrhizae, insect symbionts and lichens as well as their potency in breaking down complex organic biomolecules such as lignin, the more durable component of wood , as well as xenobiotics, a critical step in the global carbon cycle.

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) as well as plants (such as Dutch elm disease and Rice blast).

Field meetings to find interesting species of fungi are known as 'forays', after the first such meeting organized by the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club in 1868 and entitled "a foray among the fungi."

Some fungi can cause disease in humans or other organisms. The study of pathogenic fungi is referred to as medical mycology.

See also

References

  • Elias Magnus Fries, Systema mycologicum (1821)
  • Hawksworth, D. L. Mycologist's Handbook. (1974) Kew: U.K., CAB International.

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