Bacteria vs Fungi- Definition, 21 Major Differences, Examples
Bacteria and fungi are two major groups of living organisms that play important roles in the environment and human health. Both are microscopic, but they differ in many aspects of their structure, function, and diversity. Bacteria are prokaryotes, which means they lack a true nucleus and membrane-bound organelles. Fungi are eukaryotes, which means they have a well-defined nucleus and various cell organelles. Bacteria are usually unicellular, while fungi can be either unicellular or multicellular. Bacteria have a simple cell wall made of peptidoglycan, while fungi have a complex cell wall made of chitin. Bacteria can have various shapes and arrangements, while fungi usually grow as filamentous hyphae or spherical yeasts. Bacteria can move by flagella or pili, while fungi are mostly immobile. Bacteria can reproduce by binary fission or horizontal gene transfer, while fungi can reproduce by budding, spore formation, or sexual reproduction. Bacteria can be autotrophic or heterotrophic, while fungi are exclusively heterotrophic. Bacteria can use different sources of energy and respiration, while fungi mostly use organic compounds and aerobic respiration. Bacteria can cause various diseases in humans and animals, but they can also be beneficial for digestion, immunity, and biotechnology. Fungi can also cause infections and allergies in humans and animals, but they can also be useful for decomposition, symbiosis, and food production.
In this article, we will compare bacteria and fungi based on their definition, characteristics, key differences, examples, and uses. We will also explore the similarities and differences between bacteria and fungi based on various factors such as cell type, size, cell wall, morphology, pH, mobility, nucleus, cell organelles, ribosomes, reproduction, nutrition, source of energy, respiration, pili, cytoskeleton, cell cycle, diseases and use. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of these two fascinating groups of organisms and their roles in nature and society.
Bacteria are single-celled microscopic organisms that belong to the domain Bacteria. They are one of the most abundant and diverse groups of living organisms on Earth. Bacteria can be found in almost every environment, from soil and water to the insides of plants and animals.
Bacteria have a simple cellular structure that lacks a true nucleus and membrane-bound organelles. Instead, they have a nucleoid region where their circular DNA is located, and some ribosomes that synthesize proteins. Some bacteria also have plasmids, which are small circular pieces of DNA that can carry extra genes.
Bacteria have a cell wall that surrounds their cell membrane and provides shape and protection. The cell wall is composed of a polymer called peptidoglycan, which consists of sugar and amino acid units. Depending on the amount and arrangement of peptidoglycan in their cell wall, bacteria can be classified as Gram-positive or Gram-negative. Gram-positive bacteria have a thick layer of peptidoglycan that stains purple with a dye called Gram stain, while Gram-negative bacteria have a thin layer of peptidoglycan that stains pink with the same dye.
Bacteria can have different shapes, such as cocci (spherical), bacilli (rod-shaped), or spirilla (spiral). They can also form different arrangements, such as chains, clusters, or pairs. Some bacteria have appendages, such as flagella (long whip-like structures) or pili (short hair-like structures) that help them move or attach to surfaces.
Bacteria reproduce mainly by binary fission, which is a process where one cell divides into two identical cells. However, bacteria can also exchange genetic material with other bacteria through processes such as transformation, transduction, or conjugation. These processes increase the genetic diversity and adaptation of bacteria.
Bacteria can be classified into different groups based on their metabolic characteristics, such as their source of energy and carbon, their mode of respiration, and their optimal pH and temperature. Some examples of these groups are:
- Chemoautotrophs: Bacteria that obtain energy from chemical reactions and carbon from carbon dioxide. They do not need light or organic compounds to survive. Examples are nitrifying bacteria and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria.
- Chemoheterotrophs: Bacteria that obtain energy and carbon from organic compounds. They are the most common type of bacteria and include many pathogens and decomposers. Examples are E. coli and Salmonella.
- Photoautotrophs: Bacteria that obtain energy from light and carbon from carbon dioxide. They use photosynthesis to produce organic compounds. Examples are cyanobacteria and green sulfur bacteria.
- Photoheterotrophs: Bacteria that obtain energy from light and carbon from organic compounds. They use light to generate ATP but not to fix carbon dioxide. Examples are purple non-sulfur bacteria and green non-sulfur bacteria.
- Aerobes: Bacteria that require oxygen for respiration. They use oxygen as the final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain to produce ATP. Examples are Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
- Anaerobes: Bacteria that do not require oxygen for respiration. They use other substances, such as nitrate, sulfate, or carbon dioxide, as the final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain to produce ATP. Examples are Clostridium botulinum and Methanobacterium.
- Facultative anaerobes: Bacteria that can switch between aerobic and anaerobic respiration depending on the availability of oxygen. They can use oxygen or other substances as the final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain to produce ATP. Examples are E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
- Acidophiles: Bacteria that thrive in acidic environments with a pH below 5.5. They have adaptations to maintain their internal pH and protect their enzymes from denaturation. Examples are Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
- Alkaliphiles: Bacteria that thrive in alkaline environments with a pH above 8.5. They have adaptations to maintain their internal pH and protect their enzymes from denaturation. Examples are Vibrio cholerae and Bacillus alcalophilus.
- Thermophiles: Bacteria that thrive in high temperatures above 45°C. They have adaptations to stabilize their proteins and membranes from heat damage. Examples are Thermus aquaticus and Geobacillus stearothermophilus.
- Psychrophiles: Bacteria that thrive in low temperatures below 15°C. They have adaptations to increase their membrane fluidity and enzyme activity at low temperatures. Examples are Pseudomonas syringae and Psychrobacter cryohalolentis.
Bacteria are single-celled microscopic organisms that belong to the domain of prokaryotes, which means they lack a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. Bacteria are diverse in shape, size, color, and habitat, and they can be classified into different groups based on various criteria. Some of the common characteristics of bacteria are:
- Shape: Bacteria can have different shapes, such as spherical (cocci), rod-shaped (bacilli), curved (vibrio), spiral (spirilla), or comma-shaped (spirochetes). Some bacteria can change their shape depending on the environment.
- Cell wall: Bacteria have a rigid cell wall that protects them from osmotic pressure and gives them their shape. The cell wall is composed of a polymer called peptidoglycan, which consists of sugars and amino acids. Based on the amount and structure of peptidoglycan, bacteria can be divided into Gram-positive (thick peptidoglycan layer) and Gram-negative (thin peptidoglycan layer with an outer membrane) bacteria .
- Plasma membrane: Bacteria have a plasma membrane that encloses the cytoplasm and regulates the transport of substances in and out of the cell. The plasma membrane is made of a phospholipid bilayer with embedded proteins. Some bacteria have folds or invaginations in the plasma membrane that increase the surface area for metabolic activities .
- Cytoplasm: Bacteria have a gel-like cytoplasm that contains the genetic material and other cellular components. The genetic material consists of a circular DNA molecule called the chromosome, which is not associated with histones or enclosed by a nuclear membrane. Some bacteria also have extra-chromosomal DNA called plasmids, which can carry genes for antibiotic resistance, virulence factors, or metabolic pathways .
- Ribosomes: Bacteria have ribosomes that are responsible for protein synthesis. Ribosomes are composed of RNA and proteins and have a smaller size (70S) than eukaryotic ribosomes (80S). Ribosomes can be found free in the cytoplasm or attached to the plasma membrane .
- Flagella: Some bacteria have flagella, which are long whip-like structures that extend from the cell surface and enable motility. Flagella are composed of a protein called flagellin and have a basal body, a hook, and a filament. The number and arrangement of flagella can vary among bacteria. For example, some bacteria have one flagellum at one end (monotrichous), some have one flagellum at both ends (amphitrichous), some have multiple flagella at one end (lophotrichous), and some have multiple flagella all over the cell surface (peritrichous) .
- Pili: Some bacteria have pili, which are short hair-like structures that protrude from the cell surface and mediate attachment to surfaces or other cells. Pili are composed of a protein called pilin and can be classified into two types: fimbriae and sex pili. Fimbriae are involved in adhesion to host cells or tissues, while sex pili are involved in conjugation, which is a process of DNA transfer between bacteria .
- Capsule: Some bacteria have a capsule, which is a layer of polysaccharides or proteins that surrounds the cell wall and provides protection from dehydration, phagocytosis, or antibiotics. The capsule also helps in adherence to surfaces or other cells and prevents desiccation .
- Spores: Some bacteria can form spores, which are dormant structures that can survive harsh environmental conditions such as high temperature, low moisture, or UV radiation. Spores are formed by a process called sporulation, which involves the formation of a thick protective coat around a copy of the chromosome and some essential cytoplasmic components. Spores can germinate into vegetative cells when favorable conditions return .
Bacteria exhibit remarkable diversity and adaptability in their structure and function. They play important roles in various biological processes such as nutrient cycling, decomposition, symbiosis, pathogenesis, biotechnology, and bioremediation .
Fungi are a group of eukaryotic organisms that have a cell wall made of chitin and lack chlorophyll. Fungi include microscopic forms like molds and yeasts, as well as macroscopic forms like mushrooms and lichens. Fungi are heterotrophic, meaning they obtain their food and energy from organic matter. Some fungi are saprophytic, meaning they decompose dead or decaying organic matter. Some fungi are parasitic, meaning they live on or in living hosts and cause diseases. Some fungi are mutualistic, meaning they form beneficial associations with other organisms, such as plants, algae, or animals.
Fungi have a complex life cycle that involves both sexual and asexual reproduction. Fungi reproduce by producing spores, which are microscopic cells that can germinate and grow into new fungi. Spores can be produced either by mitosis (asexual reproduction) or by meiosis (sexual reproduction). Spores can be dispersed by wind, water, animals, or other means. Fungi can also reproduce by fragmentation, budding, or vegetative growth.
Fungi are classified into six major groups based on the structure and function of their spores: Chytridiomycota, Zygomycota, Glomeromycota, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Deuteromycota. Each group has distinctive features and characteristics that distinguish them from other fungi. Fungi are important for the ecosystem as they recycle nutrients, decompose organic matter, form symbiotic relationships with other organisms, and produce useful substances such as antibiotics, enzymes, vitamins, and food. Fungi are also responsible for some human diseases such as athlete`s foot, ringworm, candidiasis, and histoplasmosis.
Fungi are eukaryotic organisms that have the following characteristics:
- Fungi have a cell wall made of chitin, a polysaccharide that provides rigidity and protection to the cell. Chitin is also found in the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceans.
- Fungi lack chlorophyll and therefore cannot perform photosynthesis. They are heterotrophs that obtain their nutrients by secreting digestive enzymes into the environment and absorbing the organic molecules. Some fungi are saprophytes that feed on dead organic matter, while others are parasites or symbionts that live in association with other organisms.
- Fungi have a hyphal growth form, which means they grow as long, branching, filamentous structures called hyphae. Hyphae can be either septate (divided by cross-walls) or aseptate (without cross-walls). Hyphae form a network called mycelium, which is the vegetative body of most fungi. Some fungi also produce specialized hyphae for reproduction, such as sporangiophores or conidiophores.
- Fungi have a nucleus surrounded by a nuclear membrane, which contains the genetic material in the form of linear chromosomes. Fungi also have other membrane-bound organelles, such as mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, vacuoles, and vesicles. Fungi have 80S ribosomes, similar to those of animals and plants.
- Fungi reproduce by both asexual and sexual means. Asexual reproduction involves the formation of spores, which are haploid cells that can germinate into new individuals. Spores can be produced by mitosis or meiosis, depending on the type of fungus. Sexual reproduction involves the fusion of two compatible haploid nuclei to form a diploid zygote, which then undergoes meiosis to produce haploid spores. The sexual cycle of fungi can be complex and varies among different groups.
- Fungi are classified into six major phyla based on their mode of sexual reproduction and the structure of their spores: Glomeromycota, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, Chytridiomycota, Blastocladiomycota, and Zygomycota. Each phylum has distinctive features and includes many diverse species of fungi.
- Fungi play important roles in the ecosystem as decomposers, symbionts, pathogens, and sources of food and medicine. Some fungi produce antibiotics, such as penicillin and cephalosporin, that are used to treat bacterial infections. Some fungi are edible, such as mushrooms and truffles, and are valued for their flavor and nutritional value. Some fungi cause diseases in plants, animals, and humans, such as rusts, smuts, molds, ringworms, and candidiasis.
Bacteria and fungi are two types of microorganisms that differ in many aspects. Some of the key differences between them are:
- Cell type: Bacteria are prokaryotic cells, meaning they lack a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. Fungi are eukaryotic cells, meaning they have a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles.
- Cell size: Bacteria are generally smaller than fungi, ranging from 0.2 to 10 micrometers in diameter. Fungi can vary in size from a few micrometers to several meters in length.
- Cell wall: Bacteria have a cell wall made of peptidoglycan, a polymer of amino acids and sugars. Fungi have a cell wall made of chitin, a polymer of glucose molecules.
- Morphology: Bacteria have three basic shapes: cocci (spherical), bacilli (rod-shaped), and spirilla (spiral-shaped). Fungi can have various shapes, but most of them grow as long, thread-like structures called hyphae, which can form networks called mycelia or fruiting bodies like mushrooms.
- pH: Bacteria can survive in a wide range of pH levels, from acidic to alkaline. Fungi prefer slightly acidic environments, with an optimal pH of around 5.5.
- Mobility: Some bacteria have flagella, whip-like structures that allow them to move in liquid environments. Fungi are generally immobile, except for some spores that can be dispersed by wind or water.
- Nucleus: Bacteria do not have a nucleus; their genetic material is organized in the cytoplasm as a single circular chromosome. Fungi have a nucleus that contains multiple linear chromosomes.
- Cell organelles: Bacteria do not have membrane-bound organelles like mitochondria, chloroplasts, or endoplasmic reticulum. Fungi have membrane-bound organelles like mitochondria, vacuoles, and endoplasmic reticulum.
- Ribosomes: Bacteria have 70S ribosomes, which are smaller and simpler than eukaryotic ribosomes. Fungi have 80S ribosomes, which are larger and more complex than prokaryotic ribosomes.
- Reproduction: Bacteria reproduce mainly by binary fission, a process of splitting into two identical cells. Fungi reproduce mainly by spore formation, a process of producing specialized cells that can germinate into new individuals.
- Nutrition: Bacteria can be either autotrophs or heterotrophs. Autotrophs can synthesize their own organic molecules from inorganic sources like carbon dioxide and water. Heterotrophs depend on organic molecules from other sources for their nutrition. Fungi are heterotrophs that secrete digestive enzymes into their environment and absorb the resulting nutrients.
- Source of energy: Bacteria can obtain energy from various sources like light, organic compounds, or inorganic compounds. Fungi obtain energy from organic compounds like sugars, fats, or proteins.
- Respiration: Bacteria can be either aerobic or anaerobic. Aerobic bacteria use oxygen as the final electron acceptor in their cellular respiration. Anaerobic bacteria use other substances like nitrate or sulfate as the final electron acceptor in their cellular respiration. Fungi are aerobic and use oxygen as the final electron acceptor in their cellular respiration.
- Pili: Some bacteria have pili, hair-like structures that allow them to attach to surfaces or other cells. Fungi do not have pili.
- Cytoskeleton: Bacteria have a simple cytoskeleton composed of protein filaments that help maintain their shape and movement. Fungi have a complex cytoskeleton composed of microtubules and actin filaments that help maintain their shape and movement.
- Cell cycle: Bacteria have a simple cell cycle that consists of three phases: growth, DNA replication, and division. Fungi have a complex cell cycle that consists of four phases: G1 (growth), S (DNA synthesis), G2 (preparation for division), and M (mitosis).
- Diseases: Bacteria can cause many diseases in humans and other animals, such as tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid fever, strep throat, etc. Fungi can also cause some diseases in humans and other animals, such as athlete`s foot, ringworm, candidiasis, etc.
- Use: Bacteria have many uses in biotechnology, medicine, agriculture, and industry, such as producing antibiotics, enzymes, hormones, biofuels, etc. Fungi also have many uses in biotechnology, medicine, agriculture, and industry, such as producing antibiotics, enzymes, hormones, alcohol, etc.
The following table summarizes the key differences between bacteria and fungi:
|A few micrometers to several meters
|Cocci, bacilli, or spirilla
|Hyphae, mycelia, or fruiting bodies
|Binary fission (mainly)
|Spore formation (mainly)
|Autotrophs or heterotrophs
|Source of energy
|Light, organic compounds, or inorganic compounds
|Aerobic or anaerobic
|Simple (three phases)
|Complex (four phases)
|Many (e.g. tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid fever)
|Some (e.g. athlete`s foot, ringworm, candidiasis)
|Many (e.g. antibiotics, enzymes, hormones)
|Many (e.g. antibiotics, enzymes, hormones)
Bacteria and fungi are two different types of microorganisms that have some similarities and differences. The following table summarizes the main points of comparison between them based on various factors.
|Made of peptidoglycan
|Made of chitin
|Cocci, bacilli or spirilla
|Hyphae or yeast
|Neutral or alkaline
|Some have flagella or pili
|Absent (except ribosomes)
|Present (mitochondria, ER, Golgi, etc.)
|Asexual (binary fission, budding, fragmentation) or horizontal gene transfer (transformation, transduction, conjugation)
|Asexual (budding, sporulation) or sexual (plasmogamy, karyogamy, meiosis)
|Autotrophic (photosynthetic or chemosynthetic) or heterotrophic (saprophytic, parasitic, mutualistic)
|Heterotrophic (saprophytic, parasitic, mutualistic)
|Source of energy
|Light or chemical compounds
|Aerobic or anaerobic
|Aerobic or anaerobic
|Present in some bacteria for attachment or gene transfer
|Present in some bacteria for shape maintenance or cell division
|Present in some fungi for cell division or movement
|Binary fission with one origin of replication and no mitosis or meiosis
|Mitosis with multiple origins of replication and meiosis with recombination
As you can see from the table, bacteria and fungi differ in many aspects of their structure, function and behavior. However, they also share some common features such as being microscopic, living as saprophytes and causing diseases in humans and other organisms.
Escherichia coli (E. coli)
E. coli is a common bacterium that lives in the intestines of humans and animals. Most strains of E. coli are harmless or even beneficial, but some can cause serious infections and diseases. E. coli can be found in various environments, such as soil, water, food, and the human body.
E. coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped, and facultative anaerobic bacterium that can grow with or without oxygen. It has a single circular chromosome and may also have plasmids that carry extra genes. It has a cell wall made of peptidoglycan and an outer membrane with lipopolysaccharides. It also has flagella for motility and pili for attachment and genetic exchange.
E. coli reproduces by binary fission, a simple process of cell division that produces two identical daughter cells. It can also exchange genetic material with other bacteria by transformation, transduction, or conjugation. This can result in the acquisition of new traits, such as antibiotic resistance or virulence factors.
E. coli can be classified into different types based on their antigens, such as O (somatic), H (flagellar), and K (capsular). Some types of E. coli are pathogenic and cause diseases such as diarrhea, urinary tract infections, septicemia, meningitis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome. These types include E. coli O157:H7, which produces Shiga toxins that damage the intestinal lining and the kidneys .
Salmonella Typhi is a pathogenic bacterium that causes typhoid fever, a life-threatening illness that affects the intestinal tract and the blood. Salmonella Typhi is transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated with feces from infected humans or animals.
Salmonella Typhi is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped, and non-sporing bacterium that has peritrichous flagella for motility. It has a cell wall composed of peptidoglycan and an outer membrane with lipopolysaccharides. It also has a capsule that protects it from phagocytosis by the host immune system .
Salmonella Typhi reproduces by binary fission inside the host cells or in the extracellular environment. It can also transfer genetic material with other bacteria by transduction or conjugation. This can result in the acquisition of new traits, such as antibiotic resistance or virulence factors.
Salmonella Typhi can invade the intestinal mucosa and enter the bloodstream, where it can spread to various organs and tissues. It can cause symptoms such as fever, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, rose spots on the skin, and enlargement of the spleen and liver. In severe cases, it can cause complications such as intestinal perforation, hemorrhage, shock, and death .
Bacteria and fungi are diverse groups of microorganisms that can be found in various habitats and have different roles in the ecosystem. Some of them are beneficial, while others are harmful or pathogenic. Here are some examples of bacteria and fungi that illustrate their characteristics and importance.
Examples of Bacteria
- Escherichia coli (E. coli): E. coli is a common bacterium that lives in the lower intestine of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Most strains of E. coli are harmless and some even produce vitamins K and B-12. However, some strains can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, or food poisoning. E. coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped, and facultative anaerobic bacterium that can grow at room temperature. It is widely used as a model organism for genetic and molecular studies.
- Salmonella Typhi: Salmonella Typhi is a pathogenic bacterium that causes typhoid fever, a serious infection of the intestinal tract and blood. It is transmitted by contaminated food or water that contains feces from infected people or animals. Salmonella Typhi is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped, and non-sporing bacterium with peritrichous flagella. It is a chemotroph that can use oxygen or other electron acceptors for respiration.
Examples of Fungi
- Yeast: Yeast is a general term for single-celled fungi that can grow in moist and nutrient-rich environments. Some yeasts are economically important for baking, brewing, and biotechnology. For example, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is commonly used as baker`s yeast and for producing ethanol and other products. Some yeasts are also pathogenic and can cause infections of the skin, mouth, or vagina. For example, Candida albicans is the main cause of yeast infections in humans. Yeasts reproduce by budding or fission and some can form sexual spores.
- Mushroom: Mushroom is a common name for the fruiting body of some multicellular fungi that produce spores for reproduction. Mushrooms can vary in shape, size, color, and texture and are found on soil or on decaying organic matter. Some mushrooms are edible and nutritious, while others are poisonous or hallucinogenic. For example, Agaricus bisporus is the most cultivated mushroom species and is commonly known as white button mushroom or portobello mushroom. Some mushrooms also have medicinal properties and can produce compounds with antimicrobial, antitumor, or immunomodulatory effects.
Bacteria and fungi are two different groups of organisms that have distinct characteristics and roles in the environment. Bacteria are prokaryotes that lack a true nucleus and membrane-bound organelles, while fungi are eukaryotes that have a well-defined nucleus and various cell organelles. Bacteria can be found in various shapes and sizes, and they can be either beneficial or harmful to humans and other living beings. Fungi are mostly multicellular organisms that grow as hyphae or filaments, and they can be decomposers, parasites, or symbionts. Bacteria and fungi differ in many aspects such as cell type, cell wall, morphology, pH, mobility, nucleus, cell organelles, ribosomes, reproduction, nutrition, source of energy, respiration, pili, cytoskeleton, cell cycle, diseases and use. Some examples of bacteria are E. coli and Salmonella Typhi, which can cause infections in humans. Some examples of fungi are yeast and mushroom, which can be used for food or medicine. Bacteria and fungi are important organisms that have a significant impact on the biosphere and human health.
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