Nutrition, Characteristics And Significance Of Phylum Ascomycota

Ascomycota has been proven to be the biggest phylum of fungi in comparison to other forms of phyla like deuteromycota, chytridiomycota, zygomycota, and basidiomycota.

There are over 33,000 species of this form of fungi that have been identified worldwide and there are still many to be formally discovered.

Nutrition, Characteristics and Significance of Phylum Ascomycota

This particular form of phylum is also the most morphologically diverse as the organism’s range from single cell to multicellular fungi.

Whilst the vast majority of the Ascomycota species of fungi will reproduce asexually, they can also reproduce together during some phases.

Organisms that below to this form of phylum fungi include the following:

  • Verticillium
  • Yeast
  • Pezizomycotina
  • Monascus
  • Laboulbeniales
  • Aspergillus nidulans

What Are The Characteristics Of Phylum Ascomycota?

Asides from being the biggest phylum, phylum ascomycota is also uniquely diverse. This has been attributed to their form of morphology and life cycle as well as the wide-ranging habitats that they exist in.

The Morphology Of Phylum Ascomycota

In regard to morphology, some species of phylum ascomycota are unicellular whilst others are more multifaceted. A good example of a unicellular form of ascomycota is yeast.

Phylum also contains other fungi that are similar to yeast, however, yeast is one of the most simplistic forms of ascomycota fungi that exists as singular cells.

The structure of yeast can vary depending on the habitat that it grows and the available nutrients within the surrounding environment.

Because of this, yeast cells can assume different sizes and structures. Some other traits of these singular cells include a large vacuole, granula cytoplasm, a nucleus and a cell wall.

Whilst yeast can also exist as a single cell organism, they can transform into multicellular organisms through a process called dimorphism.

In these instances, the yeast cells will produce hyphae and pseudohyphae in order to become more multifaceted and complex than single-celled yeast. In this instance, yeast organisms have been proven to be pathogenic.

Numerous multicellular forms of Ascomycota will have larger spores.

In comparison to single cell organisms, they can vary in coloration, size and shape and they also inhabit a variety of different habitats. Similarly to basidiomycetes, some organisms exist in partnership with cyanobacteria.

Within this symbiotic relationship, the cyanobacteria will benefit the Ascomycota fungi through a process of synthesizing the carbon compounds whilst the fungi itself hosts.

This relationship also results in lichens forming which result fro the symbiotic relationship between cyanobacteria and fungi.

One of the most typical relationships that are found within the mycorrhizal species is when the fungi finds shelter within the roots of the plant.

On the basis of morphology, Ascomycota is also divided into mycelial ascomycetes and saccharomycetes.

The latter are large single-celled organisms that include unicellular forms of yeast. Whereas, mycelia ascomycetes tend to form multi-cellular fruit bodies.

Some other characteristics of this group include eukaryotic phases, woronin bodies and septal pores.

Habitats Of Ascomycota Fungi

As ascomycota fungi is a diverse form of phylum, a variety of species can be found within different habitats.

For example, whilst some yeast can be found with the body of the host (a plant or human being) and cause disease, more complicated forms of ascomycota like Aleuria aurantia are more terrestrial and thus, can be discovered in natural habitats that contain moisture, warmth or decay.

The most common species of Ascomycota fungi found within marine environments include Julella avicenniae, Massarina, and Decorospora gaudefroy.

Reproduction Of Ascomycota Fungi

Nutrition, Characteristics and Significance of Phylum Ascomycota

For this particular species, the life cycle begins with the germination of haploid spores in order to produce mycelia. This mycelia then forms during a process of vegetation and matures in order to repeat the growth cycle.

Once the mycelia have matured fully, they begin to form conidia that produce spores. These spores are eventually released so the life cycle can begin.

Sexual reproduction of ascomycota fungi will take place whenever gametes are produced.

Gametes are essentially nuclei that are formed within the hyphae of the organism itself or within the spores of the organism. These gametes cross-fertilize with other forms of gamete.

The hyphae and spores of ascomycota as as gametangia that holds responsibility for producing gametes that sexually reproduce.

Within filamentous fungi like ascomycota fungi, it is the fruiting body that produces the mycelia within the organism.

As soon as this matures, it can be fertilized by the gametes that are produced within another form of mycelia, if they are both compatible.

After the fertilization process has occurred, the fruiting body will further develop in order to produce zygote which ensures that the mycelia develop properly into nuclei.

The nuclei will then begin to divide and further develop in order for the life cycle to continue and start over.

These organisms have often been described as hermaphrodites as both female and male parts are produced within these organisms.

Single-celled organisms like yeast will produce asexually through cell division that is known as mitosis. There is no fruiting body produced within these organisms due to their asexual reproduction. Instead, a fusion occurs between the different cells.

After budding, the meiotic spores will begin to germinate and fuse with compatible cells which results in the formation of diploid cells derived from haploid cells.

As the cell matures, budding will occur resulting in the production of two female, daughter cells, continuing the life cycle onwards.

The Fruiting Body Of Ascomycota

Whilst fruiting bodies may not be commonly found in yeast, they are common amongst the mycelial forms of ascomycetes.

These are often referred to as ascocarps or ascomata, and they consist of multifaceted structures that are complex and made from different cells. Asci is developed by the nucleus and found within this complicated structure.

The four main types of fruiting bodies include the following:

  • Perithecia
  • Apothecia
  • Cleistothecia
  • Pseudothecia

Whilst the fruiting bodies of these organisms are mainly produced by the mycelial ascomycetes, evidence have shown that production also depends on numerous external factors that include:

  • Temperature
  • pH level
  • Aeration
  • Light
  • Nutrient availability

In the above conditions, vegetative mycelium is produced at a competent rate, and thus, they begin to differentiate in order to form fruiting bodies which are essential to reproduce within some organisms of the ascomycota species.

What Is Asci?

Ascus (plural asci) is a unifying characteristic amongst different species of ascomycota. The ascu are contained within the fruiting body and enhance the production of sexual spores that progress the reproductive process.

Asci can vary in size and shape depending on the species of ascomycota and they also produce and release spores that vary in size and shape.

Ascomycota Nutrition

Ascomycota is a diverse form of phylum. In this sense, it contains different varieties of species that are found within a vast array of habitats.

These organisms will source nutrition from a number of places ranging from decaying matter to other compounds that have been synthesized by additional organisms like cyanobacteria.

Some of these species (like entomopathogenic ascomycota) will evolve in order to affect the host body before switching back to saprophytism. This enables them to survive within different habitats and environmental conditions.

Studies also indicate that some phylum ascomycota will actually be carnivorous as they trap nutrition from prey including nematodes.

In order to tray their prey, they will construct adhesive traps and rings like adhesive knobs amongst others. This will allow them to properly obtain, capture and kill their prey to obtain the relevant nutrients.

What Are The Benefits Of Ascomycota?

Nutrition, Characteristics and Significance of Phylum Ascomycota

Some species of ascomycota can be used to make pharmaceutical drugs like antibiotics. For instance, Penicillium chrysogenum is used for this reason.

Other species like Tolypocladium will release specific substances that become immunosuppressors and these can also be used for medical reasons in order to assist patients with poor immunity.

Conversely, ascomycota like yeast is used during baking and some other forms are used in the preparation of food.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Ascomycota?

Some forms of Ascomycota like Cryphonectria parasitica, Cochliobolus heterostrophus, and Ophiostoma novo-ulmi can cause disease in plants that leaves lasting damage. Whilst Penicillium italicum can spot food resulting in major losses.

Some species of this organism can also produce poison that can kill humans and animals. Candida albicans can also cause disease in human beings, irrespective of whether you have a strong immune system or not.

What Does Phylum Mean?

In plant biology, phylum refers to a division that is taxonomic and consists of organisms with specific characteristics.

Phylum divides a kingdom of organisms into a number of groups that are formed on the basis of their specific characteristics.

Whilst more recent forms of phylogenetic display a number of traits that identify the key differences between organisms in order to appropriately classify them, the basic organization of these organisms is one of the most effective means of grouping them correctly within the appropriate phyla.

Common Characteristics Of Ascomycetes: A Summary

  • Ascomycota are uniquely diverse, including organisms ranging from complex cup fungi to unicellular yeasts.
  • The vast majority of lichens will include ascomycota as the fungal component.
  • There are 30,000 species of ascomycota.
  • The presence of the reproductive structure otherwise known as the ascus is the most commonly shared trait amongst ascomycota.
  • Many forms of ascomycota are used commercially. They can be used in baking, brewing and wine production.
  • Many forms of ascomycota will cause disease in trees such as dutch elm disease.
  • Some of the pathogenic forms of ascomycota include ergot fungi, black knot, and apple soap.
  • Yeast is used to produce several alcoholic beverages whilst penicillium is used to produce antibiotics. Thus their functionality is wide ranging.
  • Nearly half of these organisms form symbiotic relationships.
  • Mycorrhizal relationships are formed with plants enhancing the nutrient uptake of these organisms.
  • The vast majority of these organisms are parasitic or terrestrial. However, some have adapted to marine environments.
  • The hyphae’s cell walls are composed of chitin and other components. The fibers of these are set within a web of glycoprotein that contains mannose and galactose sugars.
  • Septate hyphae makes up the mycelium of ascomycetes. However there is not usually any fixed amount of nuclei within the divisions of this organism.
  • Septal walls contain septal pores that provide continuity throughout the hyphae. Nuclei may also migrate between these compartments via the septal pores.
  • Woronin bodies can be found within some ascomycota and this separates the hyphal segments that control the organism’s septal pores. Whenever the hypha becomes ruptured, these bodies serve to block these pores, preventing cytoplasm from escaping from the ruptured area. These bodies are typically shaped like spheres or they can take hexagonal or rectangular form. They are the membrane-bound elements that contain a crystalline matrix of protein.


To conclude, ascomycota consists of both unicellular and multicellular organisms that are commonly found within plants.

The vast majority of these organisms are terrestrial or parasitic, however, they can also exist within marine-based environments.

They are one of the most commonly used forms of organisms within medicine and food production.

It is important to note that they can also cause disease within trees and human beings and thus, it is important to distinguish between the different species of ascomycota.

Forms of ascomycota like yeast are commonly used in alcohol production and within baking processes.

Yeast is classified as a unicellular organism as it reproduces asexually, however, alternative forms of ascomycota will sexually reproduce in order to become more complex forms.

Nearly half of these organisms will also form symbiotic relationships and thus, they often work in conjunction with other organisms.

One of the unique features of these organisms is that some species can form Woronin bodies that separate the hyphal segments that control the septal pores of the organism.

In this sense, they have a protective means of protecting the pores whenever the hypha biomes ruptured, and they are therefore able to prevent any cytoplasm from escaping.

In this sense, they are one of the most diverse and unique forms of organisms on the planet.

Jennifer Dawkins

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