It may be hard to pronounce, but deuteromycota is actually a fairly simple organism, a type of fungi. It is known in biology circles as an "imperfect fungi," because it reproduces asexually – but also because humans do not fully understand the deuteromycota life cycle. There is one classification scheme for this fungi, with four orders: Moniliales, Sphaeropsidales, Melanconiales and Mycelia Sterilia. Penicillin is the best-known species of this fungi, but there are many, many more.
Life Cycle of Deuteromycota Fungi
In general, the life cycle of deuteromycota is poorly understood. The fungi reproduce vegetatively or asexually. According to many experts, there has never been documented or observed sexual reproduction in these species. How do they reproduce, then?
Deuteromycetes reproduce through spores or through budding or arthrospores. They produce genetically identical spores (reproductive cells), or pieces of their mycelia break off. No fertilization is required, and these processes help fungi to spread faster than they would via sexual reproduction.
By definition, an imperfect fungus is one that is known only to reproduce asexually. However, the definition also includes the caveat that the fungus might use a sexual form of reproduction as well, but this has not been observed by scientists. Imperfect fungi are often associated with the taxonomic division of Deuteromycota specifically, as well as the class of Deuteromycetes. Scientists explain that imperfect fungi do not fit into commonly established classifications for fungi. At times, Deuteromycota are even referred to as "second-class" fungi, since they do not have a known sexual state during their life cycles.
Characteristics of Deuteromycota Phylum
How many species of deuteromycota are there? Experts estimates range from about 17,000 to 25,000 species in this phylum. Most deuteromycota fungi have well-developed, separate mycelium that show distinct conidiophores. Others have unicellular thallus, and most reproduce through conidia, which are special spores. These can be star-shaped, ovoid, elongated or spherical, with one or many cells.
Some fungi species produce their spores in sporangia, or protective sacs, while others produce conidia spores through mitosis or meiosis. When conditions are favorable, spores develop and grow into new organisms. They spread when there is adequate humidity and food sources.
Is Penicillin a Deuteromycota?
Yes, penicillin is a deuteromycota, and it might in fact be the best-known fungus of the deuteromycota phylum. Penicillin was discovered around 1928, when Alexander Fleming found it growing in a Petri dish that contained Staphylococcus bacteria. The dish was filled with blue-green Penicillium notatum, which was preventing the bacteria from thriving. By 1942, the first civilian was treated with penicillin, curing her of a serious infection.
Some other fungi within this classification can cause serious diseases, though. Some produce toxic compounds, such as those made by the Aspergillus genus of fungi. These pathogenic fungi cause diseases in humans and appear as black mold on food. Still others act as parasites that can infect humans and plants, but Aspergillus wentii is used for processing soybeans, and Aspergillus oryzae is used for fermenting sake.
Beyond this, there are also species of Penicillium that are used to ripen cheeses like Camembert and Roquefort. The next time you have some cheese like these, have a look at their blueish-green veins and whitish crusts; this is due in part to the wonders of Penicillium.
- Department of Botany at the University of Hawaii at Manoa: Deuteromycota
- Kiddle: Deuteromycota Facts for Kids
- Brittanica: Deuteromycetes
- University of Arizona College of Agriculture & Life Sciences: Deuteromycota
- JRank Science & Philosophy: Deuteromycota, Imperfect Fungi
- Merriam Webster: Imperfect Fungus
- Science Direct: Deuteromycetes