FUNGI

Most fungi are saprophytes, meaning they
feed on dead or decaying material. By breaking down this debris and leaf litter that would otherwise accumulate on the ground and in the creek, fungi cycle and release nutrients through the Emigration Creek ecosystem, making them available for other organisms. Their life cycle includes spore production from which single celled filaments called hyphae grow.  Because fungi cannot ingest their food like animals, or make their own food like plants can, they must gain nutrients through these hyphae. They network through the substrate they are feeding on, whether it be a decomposing animal, dead leaves that fall into the creek, or other debris that may accumulate on the bed of the stream. These hyphae secrete digestive enzymes, breaking down the food source and allowing the fungus to absorb the nutrients and help the fungus grow other organisms. These organisms may feed on the fungi, like planaria, snails, or aquatic insects, but usually they eat the organic particles or detritus, which the fungi and bacteria help to break apart into smaller pieces.


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Image courtesy of
http://www.pacificcoast.net/~mycolog/chapter2b.htm


One type of fungus living in Emigration Creek, called oomycetes, are seen growing on a hemp seed here. The hyphae are filamentous in nature and can absorb food through the surrounding water, soil, or host organism. This is why they play such an important role in recycling decaying matter. The long white spores are asexual spores. They are shaped somewhat scythe-like, with a long hyphae and a curved spore that later drops off and floats downstream to help the fungus reproduce.  These scythe-shaped spores which break off the ends of hyphae filaments can often be identified when foam bubbles are collected from Emigration Creek water and examined microscopically.  The round white spores are sexual oogonia, hence the name, meaning "egg fungi."