MadSci Network: Microbiology

Re: why does mold grow on bread?

Date: Thu Nov 5 22:06:35 1998
Posted By: Evelyn Tsang, Staff, Plant Science, McGill University (Mac Campus)
Area of science: Microbiology
ID: 908139966.Mi

Hello to someone with great observational skills!

Aspergillus hyphae
Gram stain of Aspergillus fumigatus hyphae. Arrows point to septations.
You must have noticed fuzzy blue, green and black stuff growing on stale bread from time to time, eh? This stuff is commonly called mold, and it is part of the group of living things called FUNGI ( mushrooms and slime molds are part of this group too). Fungi are a separate kingdom, like the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom. Unlike plants, fungi cannot make their own food. Molds and slimes need to eat off their environment, and they usually do this by growing THROUGH their food. This means the fungi break down whatever they're going to eat by squirting out juices to digest it, and then they grow their HYPHAE (they kinda look like microscopic roots) into the dissolved food. In the case of bread, it's a nice nutritious food source for both ourselves, and fungi!

How does mold start growing on bread? The air that surrounds us is full of dust, (just check behind your couch to see where most of it collects). In this dust you will find tiny micro-organisms, and fungi will be among them. The type of fungi found in air is called a SPORE, and it has the same job as dandelion seeds. A spore will float around until it lands on something and if that something is food, that spore will germinate and grow into a nice healthy fungus!

Thanks for your observations and keep on asking questions!

Photo provided by Lynn Bry, M.D./PhD, Dept. Pathology, Brigham & Women's Hospital.

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