Growth and distribution
Aspergillus species are highly aerobic and are found in almost all oxygen-rich environments, where they commonly grow as molds on the surface of a substrate, as a result of the high oxygen tension. Commonly, fungi grow on carbon-rich substrates such as monosaccharides (such as glucose) and polysaccharides (such as amylose). Aspergillus species are common contaminants of starchy foods (such as bread and potatoes), and grow in or on many plants and trees.
In addition to growth on carbon sources, many species of Aspergillus demonstrate oligotrophy where they are capable of growing in nutrient-depleted environments, or environments in which there is a complete lack of key nutrients. A. niger is a prime example of this; it can be found growing on damp walls, as a major component of mildew.
Some Aspergillus species cause serious disease in humans and animals. The most common causing pathogenic species are Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus flavus. Aspergillus flavus produces aflatoxin which is both a toxin and a carcinogen, and which can potentially contaminate foods such as nuts. The most common causing allergic disease are Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus clavatus. Other species are important as agricultural pathogens. Aspergillus spp. cause disease on many grain crops, especially maize, and synthesize mycotoxins including aflatoxin.