18 BIOLOGY cell wall. When such characteristics were considered, the fungi were placed in a separate kingdom – Kingdom Fungi. All prokaryotic organisms were grouped together under Kingdom Monera and the unicellular eukaryotic organisms were placed in Kingdom Protista. Kingdom Protista has brought together Chlamydomonas, Chlorella (earlier placed in Algae within Plants and both having cell walls) with Paramoecium and Amoeba (which were earlier placed in the animal kingdom which lack cell wall). It has put together organisms which, in earlier classifications, were placed in different kingdoms. This happened because the criteria for classification changed. This kind of changes will take place in future too depending on the improvement in our understanding of characteristics and evolutionary relationships. Over time, an attempt has been made to evolve a classification system which reflects not only the morphological, physiological and reproductive similarities, but is also phylogenetic, i.e., is based on evolutionary relationships. In this chapter we will study characteristics of Kingdoms Monera, Protista and Fungi of the Whittaker system of classification. The Kingdoms Plantae and Animalia, commonly referred to as plant and animal kingdoms, respectively, will be dealt with separately in chapters 3 and 4. 2.1 KINGDOM MONERA Bacteria are the sole members of the Kingdom Monera. They are the most abundant micro-organisms. Bacteria occur almost everywhere. Hundreds of bacteria are present in a handful of soil. They also live in extreme habitats such as hot springs, deserts, snow and deep oceans where very few other life forms can survive. Many of them live in or on other organisms as parasites. Bacteria are grouped under four categories based on their shape: the spherical Coccus (pl.: cocci), the rod-shaped Bacillus (pl.: bacilli), the comma-shaped Vibrium (pl.: vibrio) and the spiral Spirillum (pl.: spirilla) (Figure 2.1). FlagellumSpore SpirillaCocci Bacilli Vibrio Figure 2.1 Bacteria of different shapes BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION Though the bacterial structure is very simple, they are very complex in behaviour. Compared to many other organisms, bacteria as a group show the most extensive metabolic diversity. Some of the bacteria are autotrophic, i.e., they synthesise their own food from inorganic substrates. They may be photosynthetic autotrophic or chemosynthetic autotrophic. The vast majority of bacteria are heterotrophs, i.e., they do not synthesise their own food but depend on other organisms or on dead organic matter for food. 2.1.1 Archaebacteria These bacteria are special since they live in some of the most harsh habitats such as extreme salty areas (halophiles), hot springs (thermoacidophiles) and marshy areas (methanogens). Archaebacteria differ from other bacteria in having a different cell wall structure and this feature is responsible for their survival in extreme conditions. Methanogens are present in the gut of several ruminant animals such as cows and buffaloes and they are responsible for the production of methane (biogas) from the dung of these animals. 2.1.2 Eubacteria There are thousands of different eubacteria or ‘true bacteria’. They are characterised by the presence of a rigid cell wall, and if motile, a flagellum. The cyanobacteria (also referred to as blue-green algae) have chlorophyll a similar to green plants and are photosynthetic autotrophs (Figure 2.2). The cyanobacteria are unicellular, colonial or filamentous, freshwater/marine or terrestrial algae. The colonies are generally surrounded by gelatinous sheath. They often form blooms in polluted water bodies. Some of these organisms can fix atmospheric nitrogen in specialised cells called heterocysts, e.g., Nostoc and Anabaena. Chemosynthetic autotrophic bacteria oxidise various inorganic substances such as nitrates, nitrites and ammonia and use the released energy for their ATP production. They play a great role in recycling nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, iron and sulphur. Heterotrophic bacteria are the most abundant in nature. The majority are important decomposers. Many of them have a significant impact on human affairs. They are helpful in making curd from milk, production of antibiotics, fixing nitrogen in legume Figure 2.2 A filamentous blue-green algae – Nostoc 20 BIOLOGY roots, etc. Some are pathogens causing damage to human beings, crops, farm animals and pets. Cholera, typhoid, tetanus, citrus canker are well known diseases caused by different bacteria. Bacteria reproduce mainly by fission (Figure 2.3). Sometimes, under unfavourable conditions, they produce spores. They also reproduce by a sort of sexual reproduction by adopting a primitive type of DNA transfer from one bacterium to the other. Figure 2.3 A dividing bacterium The Mycoplasma are organisms that completely lack a cell wall. They are the smallest living cells known and can survive without oxygen. Many mycoplasma are pathogenic in animals and plants. 2.2 KINGDOM PROTISTA All single-celled eukaryotes are placed under Protista, but the boundaries of this kingdom are not well defined. What may be ‘a photosynthetic protistan’ to one biologist may be ‘a plant’ to another. In this book we include Chrysophytes, Dinoflagellates, Euglenoids, Slime moulds and Protozoans under Protista. Members of Protista are primarily aquatic. This kingdom forms a link with the others dealing with plants, animals and fungi. Being eukaryotes, the protistan cell body contains a well defined nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. Some have flagella or cilia. Protists reproduce asexually and sexually by a process involving cell fusion and zygote formation. 2.2.1 Chrysophytes This group includes diatoms and golden algae (desmids). They are found in fresh water as well as in marine environments. They are microscopic and float passively in water currents (plankton). Most of them are photosynthetic. In diatoms the cell walls form two thin overlapping shells, which fit together as in a soap box. The walls are embedded with silica and thus the walls are indestructible. Thus, diatoms have left behind large amount of cell wall deposits in their habitat; this accumulation over billions of years is referred to as ‘diatomaceous earth’. Being gritty this soil is used in polishing, filtration of oils and syrups. Diatoms are the chief ‘producers’ in the oceans. 26 BIOLOGY Head Collar Sheath RNA Capsid Tail fibres (a) (b) Figure 2.6 (a) Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) (b) Bacteriophage infect a cell they take over the machinery of the host cell to replicate themselves, killing the host. Would you call viruses living or non-living? The name virus that means venom or poisonous fluid was given by Pasteur. D.J. Ivanowsky (1892) recognised certain microbes as causal organism of the mosaic disease of tobacco (Figure 2.6a). These were found to be smaller than bacteria because they passed through bacteria-proof filters. M.W. Beijerinek (1898) demonstrated that the extract of the infected plants of tobacco could cause infection in healthy plants and called the fluid as Contagium vivum fluidum (infectious living fluid). W.M. Stanley (1935) showed that viruses could be crystallised and crystals consist largely of proteins. They are inert outside their specific host cell. Viruses are obligate parasites. In addition to proteins, viruses also contain genetic material, that could be either RNA or DNA. No virus contains both RNA and DNA. A virus is a nucleoprotein and the genetic material is infectious. In general, viruses that infect plants have single stranded RNA and viruses that infect animals have either single or double stranded RNA or double stranded DNA. Bacterial viruses or bacteriophages (viruses that infect the bacteria) are usually double stranded DNA viruses (Figure 2.6b). The protein coat called capsid made of small subunits called capsomeres, protects the nucleic acid. These capsomeres are arranged in helical or polyhedral geometric forms. Viruses cause diseases like mumps, small pox, herpes and influenza. AIDS in humans is also caused by a virus. In plants, the symptoms can be mosaic formation, leaf rolling and curling, yellowing and vein clearing, dwarfing and stunted growth.