We all have noticed the cottony growth on a stale piece of left over bread. It happens with many food items when they are left open especially in moisture. But have you ever wondered why? What exactly gets this cotton like substance here? What is it made up of? Well, the cottony growth is nothing but a set of live cells! Yes! These are living cells and this fact is more than enough for us to study them. By now you must have guessed the name of these organisms. Yes! We are referring to the fungi ! Fungus is usually a broad term used to cover many organisms together. The group consists of microscopic as well as macroscopic organisms. What do we mean by this? Microscopic means those which can only be observed under the microscope. So the cottony growth that you find on stale bread can be included in this category. On the other hand, macro means huge! So those which are big enough to be observed with naked eyes are macroscopic organisms. Which organisms can we consider as an example of this type? Well mushrooms and puffballs can be included in this category. Let’s talk about the microscopic types first. These being too small what do you think will be their structure? Do you think they will always be unicellular ? Well, not all ! Only a few types like yeast are unicellular. Whereas others in spite of being microscopic are multi-cellular nature. The unicellular forms exist as one single cell which performs all the activities efficiently! On the other hand the multi-cellular ones have bodies comprising of many cells that co-ordinate to bring about smooth processes.
The multi cellular body usually consists of this stalk like structure and a cap on top of it. This cap comes in various forms. Some of them may have a bag like structure. Others may have an an umbrella shaped structure. Both these are dedicated to a special role. They contain spores of the fungi, which can be dispersed to give rise to new fungal bodies on germination. Now moving to the stalk, this usually consists of long slender filaments . These filaments are the cells that make up the entire fungal body. They form a dense network together. So are these filaments given any specific name? Scientifically they are addressed as the HYPHAE or singular HYPHA! These threads get interwoven to form a network! This structure is what we call as the mycelium. So can we say that the mycelium is a collection of Hyphae ? Yes! And can we also say that the fungal body is made up of mycelium? Absolutely! Thus, this stalk that we can see here and also these root like structures are all mycelium made up of hyphae.
Now one more important question that pops up here! Are these hyphae made up of one continuous tube? Or they are made up of smaller sections? Let’s zoom in further to know this.