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The class Agaricomycetes includes not only mushrooms but also most species placed in the old outdated taxa Gasteromycetes and Homobasidiomycetes. The Agaricomycetes include about 16,000 described species (53% of the described basidiomycetes). The taxon is roughly identical to that defined for the Homobasidiomycetes by Hibbett & Thorn) with the inclusion of Auriculariales and Sebacinales. Within the subclass Agaricomycotina, which already excludes the smut and rust fungi, the Agaricomycetes can be further defined by the exclusion of the classes Tremellomycetes and Dacrymycetes which are generally considered to be jelly fungi. However, a few former "jelly fungi", such as Auricularia, are classified in the Agaricomycetes.
Although morphology of the mushroom or fruiting body was the basis of early classification of the Agaricomycetes, this is no longer the case. As an example, the distinction between the Gasteromycetes (puffballs) and Agaricomycetes (most other mushrooms) is no longer recognized as a natural one—various puffball species have apparently evolved independently from agaricomycete fungi. However, most mushroom guide books still group the puffballs or gasteroid forms separate from other mushrooms because the older Friesian classification is still convenient for categorizing fruiting body forms. Similarly, modern classifications divide the gasteroid order Lycoperdales between Agaricales and Phallales.
All members of the class produce basidiocarps and these range in size from tiny cups a few millimeters across to giant polypores greater than a meter across and weighing up to 130 kg (286 lb). The group also includes what are arguably the largest and oldest individual organisms on earth: the mycelium of Armillaria gallica have been estimated to extend over 150,000 square metres (37 acres) with a mass of 10,000 kg (22,000 lb) and an age of 1,500 years.
Nearly all species are terrestrial (a few are aquatic), occurring in a wide range of environments where most function as decayers, especially of wood. However, some species are pathogenic or parasitic, and yet others are symbiotic, these including the important ectomycorrhizal symbionts of forest trees. General discussions on the forms and life cycles of these fungi are developed in the article on mushrooms, in the treatments of the various orders (links in table at right), and in individual species accounts.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Agaricomycetes". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|