The good, the bad and the tasty: The many roles of mushrooms

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Abstract

Fungi are often inconspicuous in nature and this means it is all too easy to overlook their importance. Often referred to as the “Forgotten Kingdom”, fungi are key components of life on this planet. The phylum Basidiomycota, considered to contain the most complex and evolutionarily advanced members of this Kingdom, includes some of the most iconic fungal species such as the gilled mushrooms, puffballs and bracket fungi. Basidiomycetes inhabit a wide range of ecological niches, carrying out vital ecosystem roles, particularly in carbon cycling and as symbiotic partners with a range of other organisms. Specifically in the context of human use, the basidiomycetes are a highly valuable food source and are increasingly medicinally important. In this review, seven main categories, or ‘roles’, for basidiomycetes have been suggested by the authors: as model species, edible species, toxic species, medicinal basidiomycetes, symbionts, decomposers and pathogens, and two species have been chosen as representatives of each category. Although this is in no way an exhaustive discussion of the importance of basidiomycetes, this review aims to give a broad overview of the importance of these organisms, exploring the various ways they can be exploited to the benefit of human society.

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de Mattos-Shipley, K. M. J., Ford, K. L., Alberti, F., Banks, A. M., Bailey, A. M., & Foster, G. D. (2016). The good, the bad and the tasty: The many roles of mushrooms. Studies in Mycology, 85, 125–157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.simyco.2016.11.002

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