Zygomycetes are a group of fungi that belong to the phylum Zygomycota. They are characterized by their ability to form unique reproductive structures called zygospores, which are formed when two sexual reproductive structures fuse together. These fungi are commonly found in soil and decaying organic matter, and some species also occur as parasites on plants and animals.
One of the most well-known zygomycetes is Rhizopus stolonifer, which is responsible for the formation of black mold on bread, fruits, and vegetables. This fungus is also used in the production of tempeh, a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans. Another notable species is Pilobolus, which can shoot its spores up to two meters away using a pressurized water jet mechanism.
Zygomycetes play an important role in various ecological processes such as decomposition, nutrient cycling, and soil formation. They are also used in biotechnology and medicine, with some species producing enzymes for industrial applications and others being used as a source of antibiotics. However, some zygomycetes are also known to cause infections in humans, especially in people with weakened immune systems. Overall, zygomycetes are a diverse and fascinating group of fungi with important ecological and practical implications.