Tagged: lichen

fungal-algal composite organisms

Reindeer Moss 0

#171: Reindeer Lichen

Reindeer Lichens grow in northern temperate forests, boreal forests, and even in the tundra. They are highly branched, fruticose lichens that are a primary food source for reindeer (also called caribou in North America). These lichens are sometimes called “Reindeer Moss,” even though they are lichens and not moss.

Fungi in the News Image 0

2016 Fall News Update

Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned about fungi from November 2016 Through February 2017. Read below to learn about: two-fungi lichens, the fate of bananas, battery recycyling, Crohn’s disease, orcas, human pathogenic fungi, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.

#148: <em>Cladonia cristatella</em>, British Soldier Lichen 0

#148: Cladonia cristatella, British Soldier Lichen

The lichen Cladonia cristatella is easy to identify thanks to the bulging, bright red cap that is supported by a thin, pale green stalk. The lichen earned its common name “British Soldier Lichen” because its bright red color seemed reminiscent of the uniforms worn by the British during the American Revolutionary War.  cristatella is a common lichen of northeastern North America, but it can be found in many places east of the Great Plains.  This lichen is not very well anchored to its substrate, so it prefers to grow in places that are protected from the elements.  Look for it on the forest floor, dead wood, the bases of trees, and mossy areas.  I have found it growing on rocks, but only in crevices where it is protected from the wind.

#110: <em>Alectoria sarmentosa</em>, Witch’s Hair 0

#110: Alectoria sarmentosa, Witch’s Hair

This lichen can be found hanging from trees in conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest (Oregon to Alaska). Alectoria sarmentosa is light green, highly branched, and drapes over tree branches like tinsel.  This resembles bushy, green hair such as that a witch might have.

#080: <em>Flavoparmelia caperata</em>, The Common Greenshield Lichen 0

#080: Flavoparmelia caperata, The Common Greenshield Lichen

One of the most common lichens in North America, the Common Greenshield looks a lot like a leaf of lettuce glued to a tree.

#064: Endangered Fungal Species 0

#064: Endangered Fungal Species

We normally think of fungi as magical organisms that appear out of nowhere and resist all our attempts to get rid of them. Despite their mysterious nature, fungi are not impervious to environmental change.  The IUCN Red List currently contains five fungal species, ranging in threat assessment from vulnerable to critically endangered.  Given that there are an estimated 1.5 to 5 million fungal species worldwide, this may seem like good news for fungi.  However, I suspect that the low numbers of endangered fungi are due to the fact that it is almost impossible for us to monitor fungal populations.  Most fungi are only visible when they produce mushrooms and may not be found in the same place every year.  This makes it extremely difficult to track fungi over time by sight.  A new alternative is to test a soil sample for the presence of specific fungal genes.  This method, however,...

#063: Overview of Lichens, Part 2: Ecology and Impact 1

#063: Overview of Lichens, Part 2: Ecology and Impact

Because of their resilient nature, lichens are able to grow in almost any climate. Their primary environmental role is initial soil creation, but they also provide food and shelter for animals and are used in a variety of ways by humans.  In case you missed last week, here is a recap.  Lichens are composite organisms that contain a few different species living in a mutualistic relationship.  All lichens contain a mycobiont (a fungus) and a photobiont (a green alga and/or a cyanobacerium).  The mycobiont provides structure while the photobiont provides sugar through photosynthesis.

#062: Overview of Lichens, Part 1: Biology and Morphology 3

#062: Overview of Lichens, Part 1: Biology and Morphology

Lichens are composite organisms made up of two mutualistic, unrelated species: a photosynthetic organism and a fungus. I find that most people don’t really understand what lichens are, and that’s not surprising, considering the definition above.  OK, so we’re all familiar with lichens: the green/grey/orange/brown crusts that form on sidewalks/trees/rocks/etc.  But what, exactly, are they?  Most people would probably classify them as plants or, more specifically, as mosses.  This would seem reasonable, as they are often found growing alongside mosses and in other similar habitats.  However, this is not the case at all.  Lichens are actually composed of two or more separate species growing together as one organism.  This unusual type of organism is known as a “composite organism.”  Lichens always include one fungal partner (the mycobiont) and at least one photosynthetic partner (the photopiont).  The photobiont can be a green alga (kingdom Plantae) or a cyanobacterium (a.k.a. blue-green alga,...