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Mycology


Mycology is the study of fungi, their genetic and biochemical properties, their taxonomy, and their use to humans as a source for medicinals (see penicillin) and food (beer, wine, cheese, edible mushrooms), as well as their dangers, such as poisoning or infection. Mycology is closely related to phytopathology: the study of plant diseases. Historically, mycology was a branch of Botany (despite fungi not being plants and being evolutionarily more closely related to animals than plants). Pioneer mycologists were Elias Magnus Fries, Christian Hendrik Persoon, and Anton de Bary.

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 cosmopolitian (worldwide) genus Fusarium and their toxins associated with fatal outbreaks of alimentary toxic aleukia in humans were extensively studied by Abraham Joffe . Also, 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 wood as well as xenobiotics are a critical step in the global carbon cycle.

Fungi and other organisms traditionally recognized as fungal often are economically and socially important as they are responsible for diseases of animals as well as plants like Potato blight (actually, an oomycete).

Field expeditions to find interesting types of fungi (often edible mushrooms) are known as mushroom forays , and are typically led by an expert mycologist.

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