Classification of Fungi

Fungi have been classically characterized and classified by the appearance of their colony (color, size, etc), hyphal organization (septate or coenocytic), and the structure and organization of reproduction spores. More recently, however, ribosomal RNA sequences are being used to further categorize these organisms. Many disagreements exist in the literature regarding the placement of several genera into their respective phyla. The following classification scheme is based largely on Prescott et. al., Microbiology. Some useful information regarding hyphae type was retrieved from and We will look at six fungal divisions. Two more (Urediniomycetes and Ustilaginomycetes) are often classified as Basidiomycota and as such are not listed as separate divisions here.

Table #1:

Group Common Name Hyphal Organization Reproduction Characteristics Example
Chytridiomycota Chytrids coenocytic hyphae  (if present)  Asexual: motile zoospores Sexual: sporangiospores Allomyces
Zygomycota Bread molds coenocytic hyphae Asexual: sporangiospores Sexual: zygospores Rhizopus stolonifer
Ascomycota Sac fungi septate hyphae Asexual: conidiospores Sexual: ascospores Saccharomyces cerevisiae Aspergillus Penicillium
Basidiomycota Club fungi septate hyphae Asexual: often absent Sexual: basidiospores Mushrooms
Glomeromycota Mycorrhizae coenocytic hyphae Only asexual reproduction known via spores or fragmentation  Acaulospora
Microsporidia Often still referred to as protists N/A Asexual or sexual (complex life cycle) Entero-cystozoon

Chytridiomycota (chytrids):
The simplest of the fungi, the chytrids are microscopic and found in freshwater, mud, soil and sometimes the rumen.

Zygomycota (bread molds):
Members of the subdivision Zygomycota have coenocytic hyphae. Asexual reproduction is via sporangiospores, which can be released from the sporangium and carried by air currents. When the spores reach an appropriate substrate, they germinate to produce new hyphae. Bread molds do not usually cause human disease. In fact, in some countries they are used in food production. Rhizopus, however, is an opportunistic human pathogen; it is especially dangerous to people with diabetes mellitus that is not well controlled.

Ascomycota (sac fungi):
Members of the subdivision Ascomycota include molds that have septate hyphae and some yeasts. They are called sac fungi because their sexual spores, called ascospores, are produced in a sac or ascus. Asexual reproduction is via conidiospores. The Ascomycetes include fungi that cause chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease. Claviceps purpurea is a parasite on rye grass that causes ergot.

Basidiomycota (club fungi):
Basidiomycetes also possess septate hyphae. The sexual spores, called basidiospores, are produced by a club-shaped structure called a basidium. In mushrooms the basidia are found along the gills or pores on the underside of the cap. Some mushrooms produce toxins that are lethal to humans.

Glomeromycota (mycorrhizae)
Most are mycorrhizal fungi that form a mutualistic symbiosis with the roots of plants.

Obligate intracellular parasites of fish, humans and insects

Lab 13 / Fungi / Classification of Fungi / Procedure / Results / Lab 13 Organisms

Please take a few minutes to fill out a brief survey about your experience using the Virtual Edge:

Please email comments/problems to

Rachel Watson, M.S.
AG 5010
Cell: 307-760-2942

Microbiology Lecture WebsiteMicrobiology Lab WebsiteThe Virtual Edge Homepage

Creative Commons License
The Virtual Edge by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License