The key difference between hyphae and mycelium is that hyphae are long branching thread-like structures of multicellular fungi while mycelium is the collection of hyphae which makes the fungus.
Fungi are eukaryotic heterotrophs that have cell walls made up of chitin. Because of these characteristic features, they are in a separate Kingdom called Kingdom Fungi. Similar to animals, fungal species also possess digestive enzymes. However, unlike animals, they digest food extracellularly, outside their cells. Many fungal species are not harmful, but a few possess the ability to cause diseases in both animals and plants. In addition, fungi are industrially important in a vast array of processes such as brewing, fermentation, baking, antibiotic production, citric acid production, enzyme production, etc. They can be either single-cell or multicellular.
What are Hyphae?
Hyphae (singular – hypha) are the fungal cells arranged in end to end fashion to form threadlike filaments. Hyphae represent the vegetative structure of a fungus. Fungi grow by adding new cells to the tip of the hyphae. The cells of hyphae have thin cell walls made up of chitin. Structure and morphology of hyphae vary with the group of fungi. Some fungal groups possess cross-walls, or septa between cells of their hyphae (septate fungi), whereas some do not (aseptate fungi). Furthermore, there are pores in cross-walls, which allow materials to flow among the cells, enabling the sharing of water and nutrients absorbed from one part of hyphae with other regions of the fungal body.
Yeast, being single-celled fungi, can form pseudohyphae by staying attached with budding cells. However, these pseudohyphae do not possess parallel cell walls, unlike the true hyphae.
What is Mycelium?
Mycelium is the mass of hyphae or collection of hyphae that forms the body of a multicellular fungus. Different groups of fungi have different mycelia. Mycelium of fungi enables either sexual or asexual reproduction of fungi.
Multicellular fungi are basically categorized based on mycelium characteristics such as septate/aseptate, texture, growth pattern, secretions, branching/unbranching nature, colour, etc. For example, ascomycetes, deuteromycetes, and basidiomycetes have branched septate mycelia, whereas zygomycetes possess branched aseptate mycelia.
What are the Similarities Between Hyphae and Mycelium?
- The total collection of hyphae makes the body of a fungus known as mycelium.
- Hyphae and mycelium both appear as thread-like structures that are visible to our naked eyes.
- Moreover, both structures belong to multicellular filamentous fungi.
- They represent the vegetative body of a fungus.
- They have cell walls made up of chitin.
- Moreover, they possess eukaryotic cells.
- Both structures are able to grow by adding new cells.
- Furthermore, they can be septate or aseptate.
What is the Difference Between Hyphae and Mycelium?
Hyphae are the long thread-like structures composed of fungal cells while mycelium is the total mass of hyphae of a fungus. Thus, this is the key difference between hyphae and mycelium.
Summary – Hyphae vs Mycelium
Hyphae are long filament or thread-like structures of fungi. They represent the vegetative structures of fungi. Mycelium, on the other hand, is the collection of hyphae of a fungus. This is the basic difference between hyphae and mycelium. Both hyphae and mycelium are visible to our naked eye. In many fungi, both are branched and consist of many long threads like structures.
1. “HYPHAE” By AHiggins12 – Own work – reference image – found here (retrieved May 2012) (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Pleurotus ostreatus mycelium on coffee grounds” By Tobi Kellner – (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia