Their extreme reduction in form and loss of sexuality may be correlated with the saprophytic habit, the proteids and other organic material required for the growth and reproduction being appropriated ready synthesized, the plant having entirely lost the power of forming them for itself, as evidenced by the absence of chlorophyll.
The group has until recent years been regarded as comprising three classes distinguished by well-marked physiological featuresthe Algae (including the Seaweeds) which contain chlorophyll, the Fungi which have no chlorophyll and therefore lead a saprophytic or parasitic mode of life, and the Lichens which are composite organisms consisting of an alga and a fungus living together in a mutual parasitism (symbiosis); Bacteria were regarded as a section of Fungi.
The Mycetozoa or Myxomycetes are a saprophytic group without chlorophyll, of simple structure and isolated position.
Those Fungi which are saprophytic can only live when supplied with organic compounds of some complexity, which they derive from decomposing animal or vegetable matter.
Such a source is commonly met with among the Fungi, the insectivorous plants, and such of the higher plants as have a saprophytic habit.
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