Fungi are a group of multicellular organisms that rely on other organisms for food. Some get their food directly from the soil while others attach to living or nonliving matter to absorb nutrients. Fungi come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The main portion of fungi remains underground. The part that is above ground and visual is known as the spore-bearing fruit body. The most recognized fungi are mushrooms and toadstools.
Fungi contain a material called chitin within their cell wall. This is the same substance found in the exoskeleton of insects. It is what makes their outer covering hard.
When fungi reproduce, most release a spore from their fruit body. These spores grow into new fungi. There are over 100,000 known species of fungi and scientists are making new discovers about fungi all the time. Some scientists believe that there are over 5 million fungi species, most of which have yet to be discovered.
Some fungi are very beneficial while others are harmful. The antibiotic penicillin comes from a mold which is a type of fungi. Penicillin is used to kill certain internal bacteria in the human body. Yeast, a type of fungi, is used to make bread, wine and beer. Athlete's foot and ringworm are both caused by fungi. They are fungi that survive by attaching to a host and feeding off of it.