Mycelium is Earth’s natural internet.
– Paul Stamets
Hello and welcome to Fungi Town, a place to learn about the fascinating world of mold, mushrooms, and mycology (the study of fungi). Why should you be interested in fungi? I’m glad you asked!
Fungi are everywhere. Scientists classify all living things on earth into groups called kingdoms based on their genetic relationships. While insects and bacteria are the largest groups, fungi fall into the next largest category. There are roughly 5.1 million species of fungi. They can be found in every ecosystem on Earth, from the stratosphere to the oceans. Fungi are not only present in the air around us, but also inside of our bodies.
Fungi are important. Much of life on this planet would not exist today if it weren’t for fungi. They are some of the few organisms that can digest the fibrous materials found in plants. So, most plant-eating animals have fungi in their gut that break plant matter down into nutrients. Plants need fungi too. Many fungi partner with the roots of plants in order to reach further for water and minerals. In short, a healthy ecosystem does not exist without fungi.
Fungi have economic impact. Fungi and products made with fungi are produced all over the world. There are many culinary used for fungi; such as cheese, soy sauce, beer, champagne, tempeh, kombucha, and mushrooms. Some important pharmaceuticals are derived from fungi, like penicillin, statins, and cyclosporin. On the flip side, there are fungi that cause damage to our crops, act as human pathogens, and decimate forests.
These are just a few ways in which fungi play a role in our everyday lives. Join me, Jen Parrilli, as I explore the wide and wonderful world of fungi with Fungi Town’s visiting scientists, artists, and other experts. You don’t have to be a mycologist to listen to the show, but you do need a healthy dose of curiosity and a strong sense of adventure!