Exploratour - Life on Earth

Lactarius deliciosus
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Corel Photography

Although many fungi may look like plants, they are more closely related to animals. Fungi are not able to make their own food like plants can, so they must get their nourishment from other sources. Many fungi get their nutrients directly from the soil. Others feed on dead plants and animals. Some fungi even feed on living organisms. Athlete's foot is a common fungus which feeds on a living thing - it eats bits of skin from your toes!

The mushrooms we can buy at the supermarket are an example of a fungus that you can eat. However, those mushrooms are just a tiny bit of the whole fungus. The rest of the fungus (and the biggest part) lives below the ground where we cannot see it.

Fungi come in a wide variety of sizes and forms and many have very important uses to humans. Yeasts are very tiny fungi that we use to bake bread. And did you know that many medicines are produced with the help of fungi? If you've ever taken Penicillin to help you get over an infection, you can thank a fungus! The green mold that grows on bread that's been left out too long is a close relative of that very important medicine.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA