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Zygomycetes have a thallus of coenocytic hyphae in which the nuclei are haploid when the organism is in the vegetative stage. The fungi usually reproduce asexually by producing sporangiospores ( [link] ). The black tips of bread mold are the swollen sporangia packed with black spores ( [link] ). When spores land on a suitable substrate, they germinate and produce a new mycelium. Sexual reproduction starts when conditions become unfavorable. Two opposing mating strains (type + and type –) must be in close proximity for gametangia from the hyphae to be produced and fuse, leading to karyogamy. The developing diploid zygospores have thick coats that protect them from desiccation and other hazards. They may remain dormant until environmental conditions are favorable. When the zygospore germinates, it undergoes meiosis and produces haploid spores, which will, in turn, grow into a new organism. This form of sexual reproduction in fungi is called conjugation (although it differs markedly from conjugation in bacteria and protists), giving rise to the name “conjugated fungi”.

The asexual and sexual life cycles of zygomycetes are shown. In the asexual life cycle, 1n spores undergo mitosis to form long chains of cells called mycelia. Germination results in the formation of more spores. In the sexual life cycle, spores germinate to form mycelia with two different mating types: plus and minus. If the plus and minus mating types are in close proximity, extensions called gametangia form between them. In a process called plasmogamy, the gametangia fuse to form a zygosporangium with multiple haploid nuclei. A thick, protective coat forms around the zygosporangium. In a process called karyogamy, the nuclei fuse to form a zygote with multiple diploid (2n) nuclei. The zygote undergoes meiosis and germination. A sporangium grows on a short stalk. Haploid spores are formed inside. The spores germinate, ending the cycle.
Zygomycetes have asexual and asexual life cycles. In the sexual life cycle, plus and minus mating types conjugate to form a zygosporangium.
 The photo shows a thick layer of green mold growing on bread. Fuzzy white projections grow from the mold.
Sporangia grow at the end of stalks, which appear as (a) white fuzz seen on this bread mold, Rhizopus stolonifer . The (b) tips of bread mold are the spore-containing sporangia. (credit b: modification of work by "polandeze"/Flickr)

Ascomycota: the sac fungi

The majority of known fungi belong to the Phylum Ascomycota    , which is characterized by the formation of an ascus (plural, asci), a sac-like structure that contains haploid ascospores. Many ascomycetes are of commercial importance. Some play a beneficial role, such as the yeasts used in baking, brewing, and wine fermentation, plus truffles and morels, which are held as gourmet delicacies. Aspergillus oryzae is used in the fermentation of rice to produce sake. Other ascomycetes parasitize plants and animals, including humans. For example, fungal pneumonia poses a significant threat to AIDS patients who have a compromised immune system. Ascomycetes not only infest and destroy crops directly; they also produce poisonous secondary metabolites that make crops unfit for consumption. Filamentous ascomycetes produce hyphae divided by perforated septa, allowing streaming of cytoplasm from one cell to the other. Conidia and asci, which are used respectively for asexual and sexual reproductions, are usually separated from the vegetative hyphae by blocked (non-perforated) septa.

Asexual reproduction is frequent and involves the production of conidiophores that release haploid conidiospores ( [link] ). Sexual reproduction starts with the development of special hyphae from either one of two types of mating strains ( [link] ). The “male” strain produces an antheridium and the “female” strain develops an ascogonium. At fertilization, the antheridium and the ascogonium combine in plasmogamy without nuclear fusion. Special ascogenous hyphae arise, in which pairs of nuclei migrate: one from the “male” strain and one from the “female” strain. In each ascus, two or more haploid ascospores fuse their nuclei in karyogamy. During sexual reproduction, thousands of asci fill a fruiting body called the ascocarp    . The diploid nucleus gives rise to haploid nuclei by meiosis. The ascospores are then released, germinate, and form hyphae that are disseminated in the environment and start new mycelia ( [link] ).

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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