Graduate Student Cat Adams Reports for BBC

February 03, 2015

Don't let their small size fool you; praising fungi

Six Bizarre Things about Fungi

By Cat Adams/BBC Campus

It’s impossible to write an article praising fungi without first thanking Kingdom Fungi for getting early humans drunk.

One group of fungi, the yeasts, generates their energy through a process called fermentation. Yeasts take sugar from plants, and break it down into a compound they can use for energy, along with the byproducts carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Alcohol poisons most microbes. But because yeasts produce so much alcohol, yeasts have evolved to tolerate very high alcohol concentrations. In a swirling vat of fermenting liquid, other harmful microbes perish.

When harmful microbes perish, humans have a better chance at thriving. Around 10,000 years ago, long before humans invented pasteurisation and refrigeration, a drink rich in nutrients but free of disease-causing bacteria was extremely valuable.

Read the full article, "Six Bizarre Things about Fungi" on BBC.