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Introduction

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A fungus (plural: fungi or funguses) is any member of the 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 the other eukaryotic life kingdoms of plants and animals.

A characteristic that places fungi in a different kingdom from plants, bacteria, and some protists is chitin in their cell walls. Similar to animals, fungi are heterotrophs; they acquire their food by absorbing dissolved molecules, typically by secreting digestive enzymes into their environment. Fungi do not photosynthesise. Growth is their means of mobility, except for spores (a few of which are flagellated), which may travel through the air or water. Fungi are the principal decomposers in ecological systems. These and other differences place fungi in a single group of related organisms, named the Eumycota (true fungi or Eumycetes), which share a common ancestor (form a monophyletic group), an interpretation that is also strongly supported by molecular phylogenetics. This fungal group is distinct from the structurally similar myxomycetes (slime molds) and oomycetes (water molds). The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology (from the Greek μύκης mykes, mushroom). In the past, mycology was regarded as a branch of botany, although it is now known fungi are genetically more closely related to animals than to plants.

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Mature Lycoperdon echinatum specimen
Lycoperdon echinatum, commonly known as the spiny puffball or the spring puffball, is a type of puffball mushroom in the genus Lycoperdon. The saprobic species has been found in Africa, Europe, Central America and North America, where it grows on soil in deciduous woods, glades, and pastures. It has been proposed that North American specimens be considered a separate species, Lycoperdon americanum, but this suggestion has not been followed by most authors. Molecular analysis indicates that Lycoperdon echinatum is closely related to the puffball genus Handkea.

The fruit bodies of L. echinatum are 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) wide by 2–3.5 cm (0.8–1.4 in) tall, supported by a small base, and densely covered with spines that are up to 0.6 cm (0.2 in) long. The spines can fall off in maturity, leaving a net-like pattern of scars on the underlying surface. Initially white in color, the puffballs turn a dark brown as they mature, at the same time changing from nearly round to somewhat flattened. Young specimens of L. echinatum resemble another edible spiny puffball, Lycoperdon pulcherrimum, but this latter species does not turn brown as it ages. The fruit bodies are edible when young, when the interior is white and firm and before it has turned into a powdery brown mass of spores. Laboratory tests have shown that extracts of the fruit bodies can inhibit the growth of several bacteria that are pathogenic to humans.

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Pseudocolus fusiformis 423862.jpg
Pseudocolus fusiformis is a stinkhorn mushroom in the Phallaceae family, a family well-known for a remarkable range of fruit body types. It is the most widely distributed member of the genus Pseudocolus and has been found in the United States, Australia, Japan, Java, and the Philippines. It is commonly known as the stinky squid, because of its fetid odor, and its three or four upright "arms" which are connected at the top. The malodorous smell comes from the dark greenish slimy gleba covering the inside faces of the arms, and attracts insects that help to disperse the spores.

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