General Characteristics of Fungal Spores

1. Spores represent microscopic dispersal or survival propagules produced by most species of fungi:
2. Fungal spores vary in size, shape and colour:
Diagram of a unicellular elliptical spore.
Diagram of a multicellular spore.Diagram of a multicellular spore.
3. Fungal spores may be unicellular or multicellular:
Light micrograph of Alternaria conidia.
For example, conidia produced by Alternaria species are multicellular. [CLICK TO VIEW A LIGHT MICROGRAPH ILLUSTRATING CONIDIA OF ALTERNARIA - 30KB]
4. Some spores possess a textured or ornamented surface:
Scanning electron micrograph of rust uredospores.
For example, uredospores of Melampsora epita (causal pathogen of willow rust). [CLICK TO VIEW A SCANNING ELECTRON MICROGRAPH ILLUSTRATING UREDOSPORES OF MELAMPSORA EPITA - 58KB]
5. The protoplasm of most (not all) spores is surrounded by a rigid wall, which ..........:
  • is often thicker and more multilayered than that of somatic cells or hyphae;
  • may be impregnated with pigments (e.g. melanins) and lipids.
6. Spores often contain substantial amounts of nutrient reserves, which may take the form of ...........:
7. They possess a relatively low water content.
8. While dormant they exhibit a low rate of metabolic activity.
9. They vary in the primary functions they serve, which may include:
  • dispersal to a fresh site or host;
  • survival at the same site;
  • increasing genetic variation.
10. They also vary in the methods by which they are formed, released and dispersed.

N.B. Zoospores possess very few of these general characteristics.

In addition: remember that many fungi are capable of producing more than one type of spore - each has its own role to play in the life cycle of the fungus.

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