The Humongous Fungus Reading Questions and Answers

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  • IELTS reading true/false/not given
  • IELTS reading Short Answer Questions

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IELTS Reading Passage – The Humongous Fungus

The Humongous Fungus 

If you were asked what is the largest organism in the world, what would your answer be? A blue whale or a redwood tree? Or perhaps a giant squid? You would be wrong. But this is understandable because the world’s largest organism is largely hidden from sight and was discovered only relatively recently in 1998 in the soil of Oregon’s Blue Mountains. It is a fungus nearly ten square kilometers in area and one meter deep. It may be not only the largest single organism in the world but also one of the oldest. Based on its current rate of growth, the fungus is thought to be around 2,400 years old; however, it is also possible that it has been growing for the past 8,650 years. Commonly known as the honey mushroom, the only visible evidence for the organism on the surface is groups of golden mushrooms that grow in forests during the autumn.

The discovery of the organism came about when Catherine Parks, a scientist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Oregon, heard about trees dying from root rot in a forest east of Prairie City, Using aerial photographs, she identified an area of dying trees stretching over a 5.6 kilometer area. She then collected samples from the roots of these trees. When she looked at the samples, Parks was able to confirm that many of the samples were infected by the same organism; the fungus had grown bigger than any other creature known to science. A combination of good genes and stable conditions has enabled it to spread. In addition, the dry climate of the region makes it difficult for new fungi to establish themselves and compete with established fungi.The technique for identifying the fungus was developed in 1992, when the first gigantic fungus was discovered in Michigan.

A PhD biology student, Myron Smith, discovered it in a hardwood forest, when he and his team were trying to find the boundaries of individual fungi. After a year of testing, they still had not found the boundary of a particular fungus. The next thing they did was develop new genetic tests to see if the DNA from the samples was from a single individual fungus and not closely related individuals. Eventually, they realized that they had found a 1,500- year-old fungus that weighed over 90 metric tonnes.The honey mushroom fungus is the cause of a root disease that kills many trees in the US and Canada. It has fine filaments or tubes that grow along tree roots and connect together to form a mat. The mat then slowly consumes the food source: it produces chemicals that digest carbohydrates from the tree and interfere with the tree’s ability to absorb water and nutrients, eventually leading to the death of the host organism. As well as producing 61 feeding filaments, the honey fungus is able to spread by producing string-like growths that reach out to find new potential food sources.

The fungus spreads very slowly over hundreds of years, seeking out food and killing its victims. Not surprisingly, forest service scientists are interested in learning to control the fungus but they also realize that it has an important role to play in the forest’s ecology. Fungi have both beneficial and harmful effects. They are essential because they decompose or break down waste matter on the forest floor and recycle nutrients. They are also central to many processes that are important to humans: they are vital to the process of making many kinds of food, including cheese, bread and wine. They have been used in the production of medicines, and particularly antibiotics. Even the golden mushrooms produced by the honey mushroom fungus are edible, though apparently not very tasty. On the other hand, fungi also form a major group of organisms harmful to plants and animals. Some mushrooms produced by fungi, such as the death cap mushroom and the fool’s mushroom, are extremely poisonous to humans. Fungi can spoil food which has been stored, and of course they can kill trees and other plants.Although to humans the idea of an enormous organism silently growing underground seems very strange, Tom Volk, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, explains that this may be in the nature of things for a fungus. ‘We think that these things are not very rare,’ he says. ‘We think that they’re in fact normal.

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The Humongous Fungus Reading Questions

Question 1 to 7

Below are given certain statements, the candidate needs to answer with True, False, or Not Given.

TRUE: If you find the question matching the information provided
FALSE: If you find the question opposite to the information provided.
NOT GIVEN: In case, there is no information given.

1.The fungus is perhaps the world’s oldest living organism.
2.Catherine Parks wanted to work in Oregon.
3.Photos taken from the air helped her to locate the fungus.
4.Myron Smith developed a test to see which organisms are related to fungi.
5.The fungus damages trees by digesting carbohydrates that are part of the tree.
6.The mushrooms from the honey mushroom fungus are poisonous to humans.
7.The fungi are the Largest group of organisms harmful to humans.

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Question 8 to 13:

Direction for questions from 8 to 13: The candidate needs to fill the answer with no more than two words. You need to fill answers in given spaces from 8 to 13.8.

The Largest known organism is a fungus, the only _________ signs of which are mushrooms that appear in autumn.9.The fungus was discovered when a scientist was studying _________ across a large area of forest in Oregon. 10.The fungus is responsible for all _________ that kills the trees. 11.Scientists determined that the fungus was a single organism by using _________ to see if DNA samples were from the same individual. 12 .Although the concept of an enormous organism living _________ strange to humans, scientists think it may be _____.

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The Humongous Fungus Reading Answers

1. Answer:True
2. Answer: Not given 
3. Answer: True 
4. Answer: False
5. Answer: True
6. Answer: False
7. Answer: Not given
8. Answer: Visible
9. Answer: Trees dying/dying trees
10. Answer: Root disease. 
11. Answer: Genetic tests
12. Answer: Underground.
13. Answer: Normal


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