Funguslike Protists: Characteristics & Ecological Role

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  • 0:00 Funguslike Protists
  • 1:45 Ecological Role
  • 3:33 Parasitic Funguslike Protists
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Discover what funguslike protists are and what their role is in our world. Learn how they can be valuable in recycling nutrients, as well as explore the flip side of how they can cause diseases that can lead to death.

Funguslike Protists

Our world would not be the same without protists. Protists are organisms that belong to the protista kingdom that are eukaryotic and generally unicellular, but sometimes multicellular and include most algae, protozoans, and some funguslike organisms. Though some are parasites and cause damage to plant species. Protists have important roles in the circle of life.

Photosynthetic protists, for example, actually produce much of the oxygen in our world. In this lesson we will talk about a different group, the funguslike protists.

The funguslike protists are protists that get energy by absorbing or ingesting dead organic matter. When you first see them, these funguslike protists aren't cute or pretty or handsome, or what have you. In fact, they kind of look creepy. Most of them look like a weird blob of spreading goo.

This particular image is of a water mold. It is currently absorbing nutrients from a dead insect. As you can see, it looks like a fungus. It also shares many characteristics of fungi. Both funguslike protists and fungi are heterotrophs, meaning they need to take in other organisms as food, as opposed to making their own food like plants do.

Like fungi, some funguslike protists including some water molds absorb rotting material acting as decomposers. However, other funguslike protists, like some slime molds, are different from fungi because they ingest their food via phagocytosis. Back to similarities, both fungi and funguslike protists have parasitic species that attack other living organisms. Another thing, molds also produce spores like fungi.

Ecological Role

There are two major types of funguslike protists. There is the water mold group and the slime mold group, both which function as ecological decomposers. Water molds get their name because these funguslike protists live in water or in moist soil. Their role in the ecosystem is as decomposers of organic material, often dead and decaying matter. They usually use absorption to obtain these nutrients. Some water molds are parasitic in nature and will attack our healthy crops and fish, causing much damage.

For example, there are 500 species of oomycota water molds, and some are helpful to us while others are parasitic, such as the phytophthora infestans water mold. Water molds are not true fungi because they don't have chitin in their cell walls.

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