Algae and Fungi are often mistaken for one another as they are both moist and have a natural inclination to grow in wet, dark environments. However, there are several defining differences that distinguish the two organisms.
What is Algae?
Algae are eukaryotic organisms that contain chlorophyll a, allowing them to perform photosynthesis. They have cell walls composed of cellulose and have a large variety of shapes. The algae’s natural source of food is sunlight and they can be found growing almost everywhere.
Algae are classified into three main kinds
- Green Algae
- Brown Algae
- Red Algae
All three kinds of algae are found in wet, dark places such as lakes, ponds, and marshes. They are small in size and thrive on nutrients in the water. Their bodies produce thick cell walls that protect their fragile structures from drying out in the sun or freezing in cold weather.
Features of Algae
Algae are found almost everywhere; however, they are most prevalent in the ocean. This is because nutrients in waste streams from the land often run off into the ocean from rivers, lakes and streams. Algae can also be found growing in hot springs and geysers and these algae come in unique shapes such as flat sheets, nail-like forms, or branching fingers.
Algae not only have a variety of shapes but also a wide array of natural colors. Green algae are bright green, whereas brown algae are dark brown and red algae can be both red and brown. Some types of algae have bands that change colour with exposure to sunlight, which allows them to blend into the environment better during changing seasons or times of the day.
What are Fungi?
Fungi are eukaryotic organisms and they can grow either singly or in a group of cells. Fungi have cell walls made from a mixture of chitin and cellulose. There are approximately 100,000 different species of fungi, most of which are not visible to the human eye. Fungi have been around for millions of years, even before plants and animals appeared on Earth. It is believed that fungi evolved from a similar ancestor as plants but instead turned to an underground existence during the process known as secondary endosymbiosis.
Fungi come in many shapes, sizes and colours but these organisms often have specific structures such as spines or caps. Most fungi have a fruiting structure; however, there are many types of fungi that do not have this structure. These fungi are known as saprophytic or parasitic.
Algae and Fungi: Differences
Fungi reproduce sexually while algae reproduce asexually through asexual spores. However, algae can give rise to new forms of themselves by splitting off from one another during times of stress and overgrowth. Fungi often thrive in cooler temperatures and can go dormant if the environment changes too much for them to survive, whereas algae do not survive when it is out of water. Algae also cannot live on dead organic material; rather, they need water to thrive and grow. Some other key differences are:
- Algae often have cell walls made of cellulose, while fungi have cell walls made of chitin.
- Fungi are further classified into groups such as moulds and yeasts, while algae is only divided into three main groups.
- Fungi are composed of many cells that are organized differently than algae, making fungi more complex organisms.
- Algae grow in sunlight and require moisture to live, whereas fungi can live in wet environments but do not need direct sunlight.
- Both algae and fungi have certain characteristics that make them unique: for example, both contain chlorophyll a; however, it is not necessary for both organisms to have this characteristic.
- Fungi cannot restore themselves through cell division as algae can because they do not contain cell walls; rather, they have spores that are able to divide into new cells by asexual reproduction.
- Algae reproduce asexually by means of spore formation, while fungal spores must come in contact with living organisms in order to germinate into new organisms.
As clearly demonstrated in this article, algae and fungi are two distinct life forms that look similar but have very distinct differences. Algae are “softer” than fungi and do not grow on dead organic material. Fungi usually reproduce sexually and have a fruiting structure.