What is Mucor? - Definition, Mold & Examples

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  • 0:03 Mucor, Molds and Fungi
  • 1:32 What Makes Mucor Special?
  • 2:11 Mucor Contaminants
  • 2:36 Pathogenic Mucor Species
  • 3:16 Mucor Indicus
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

Bridgett has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and teaches college biology.

Mucor is a genus of mold that have many effects on humans. They can contaminate food and cause disease. In addition, mucor can be utilized in industrial applications. Learn about this group of molds in this lesson.

Mucor, Molds, and Fungi

Mucor is a genus of mold. Molds are members of the kingdom Fungi, along with mushrooms and yeast. Fungi are eukaryotic organisms, and are defined by their inability to move around, as animals do, or to make their own food, as plants do. Some fungi, like yeast, are single-celled, while others, including mucor molds, are multicellular.

If you've left a brick of cheese in the fridge for too long, you've probably seen mold. It's green or blue, maybe a bit fuzzy looking, and definitely unappetizing. You may have also heard of mold growing in wet basements. How are these two things related? What do they have in common?

The fuzzy spot you see on your cheese is called the mycelium. It's made up of many microscopic filaments, called hyphae, that spread out from the center. The mycelium is like the central hub, and all the hyphae are little wires reaching out through the environment. Molds absorb food from their environment using these hyphae. They reproduce using tiny spores that can easily travel through the air.

Everything we just described means that even if you get cut the visible part of the mold off of your cheese, there may still be microscopic hyphae left over. If the mold has produced spores, they could have traveled to other foods in your fridge and begun growing more mold. You probably don't want to hear this if you just got up to check the cheese in your fridge and found some mold on it, but mold can be difficult to find and remove for this reason.

What Makes Mucor Special?

What makes mucor mold stand out? Mucor molds are often found in soil. Because mucor molds live in soil, they are common contaminants of grains stored in silos. When the grains are harvested, the soil is disrupted, allowing spores to spread up into the grain. In the silo, mucor can then utilize the grains as food, and grow happily.

Mucor is also a common mold found indoors. It can cause allergy symptoms in susceptible people. Fortunately, most mucor species don't produce toxins, so they are a nuisance more than a health concern. In addition, many mucor molds prefer growing at low temperatures, so they can't easily infect mammalian hosts.

Mucor Contaminants

Because mucor grows best at low temperatures, it's a common source of mold in refrigerated products. In late 2013, yogurt was recalled due to contamination with Mucor circinelloides, a mold commonly associated with dairy products. While it certainly sounds unappetizing, the mold posed no major public health threat. Still, the outbreak shows how easily mucor can spread given the right conditions.

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