Fungi and algae are often confused and discussed interchangeably. Indeed, the mossy lichen that is often found on rocks and trees, is actually a combination of fungus and some form of algae; however, fungi and algae are actually quite different in most respects. For example, while algae are a member of the protista kingdom, fungi are a member of the plant kingdom. Additionally, unlike many fungi, algae lack any form of roots or stems. Nevertheless, despite the significant differences, there are some similarities between fungi and algae.
One thing algae and fungi have in common is that these two terms encompass a wide variety of species. For example, fungi includes not only the mushrooms and larger fungi many people are familiar with, but also microscopic varieties, such as yeast. These varieties exist over nearly every ecosystem on earth.
Similarly, algae also range from microscopic organisms, such as single-celled organisms, to enormous kelp, which can grow as large as 65 meters long. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, there are nearly 300,000 specimens in the U.S. Algal Collection. Just as fungi are widely distributed geographically, algae varieties can also be found throughout the world in a variety of environments, including some of the most extreme environments on earth.
Fungi and algae both prefer to live in moist environments. In fact, one of the benefits algae derive from their symbiotic lichen relationship with fungi is their ability to survive on land in a moist environment.
While fungi do prefer a moist environment, fungal species can be found in nearly any environment, including deserts.
Algae tend to need more moisture than fungi for survival. Indeed, the majority of algae are found in aquatic environments, such as lakes and oceans, although they can be found in terrestrial environments as well.
Both fungi and algae are, in general, examples of organisms possessing a haploid nuclei. This means they have only a single copy of each chromosome. By contrast, diploid organisms, such as humans and most mammals, have two copies of each chromosome.
- multicolored algae image by Nikolai Sorokin from Fotolia.com