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The green, furry tufts of mold that pop up on bread and cheddar cheese aren't very appetizing. Their mere presence raises the questions: Why is mold so fuzzy, and is this fuzz dangerous?
The short answer to the first question is that fuzz is a sign that the mold is getting ready to reproduce.
Fuzzy - Molds - Billions - Microscopic - Spores
"Fuzzy molds are billions of microscopic spores waiting to be carried away to a new environment," Megan Biango-Daniels, a mycologist and postdoctoral researcher at Tufts University, told Live Science.
Related: Is It Safe to Cut Off the Mold and Eat the Rest?
Mold - Bread - Fungus - Tangerine - Moment
When you see green mold on bread or dusty white fungus on a forgotten tangerine, you're witnessing an important moment in the mold's life cycle. It's the moment when the mold is preparing to send genetic copies of itself out into the world in hopes that a few will find a home where they can establish themselves, make an honest living digesting something nutritious and propagate offspring of their own.
Molds reproduce by creating large numbers of reproductive cells called spores. Spores are similar to seeds in some ways, but they don't contain the food reserves that seeds can rely on while they germinate. Spores generally need more favorable conditions before they advance to their next life stage.
Mold - Spores - Biango-Daniels
"When you look at mold, you're looking at the spores themselves," which are often green or black, Biango-Daniels said.
"Molds need to be fuzzy because they need to be picked up and carried away on the breeze," she said, "like microscopic dandelions."
Question - Filaments - Fact - Scientists - Importance
Which brings us to the second question: Are these fluffy filaments dangerous? No, almost never. In fact, scientists are beginning to appreciate the ecological importance of molds and other fungi, such as mushrooms and yeasts.
"It has been estimated that there are around 2.2 to 3.3 million species...
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