FIGURE 1.7Fungi are effective decomposers.Themushrooms produced by this sulphur tuk fungus(Hypholomofosciculorelin Belgium are fruiting bodies produced by themuch larger, unseen masses of threadlike hyphae that penetratedecaying wood and leaf litter. Photoby Philippe Clement/NaturePicturelibrary.making its nutrients available to other organisms. Fungidigest their foods externally, secreting acids and enzymesinto their immediate surroundings, cutting through deadwood and dissolving recalcitrant nutrients from soil min-erals. Fungi are the primary agents of rot-unpleasanttoour senses and sensibilities,perhaps, but very important toecosystem functioning.Protists are the single-celled ancestors ofmorecomplexlife formsThe protists are a highly diverse group of mostly single-celled eukaryotic organisms that includes the algae, slimemolds, and protozoans. The bewildering variety of pro-tists fillsalmost every ecological role. For instance, algae,including the single-celled diatoms, are the primary pho-tosynthetic organisms in most aquatic systems. Algae can
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