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Lichens

A lichen is an association of a fungus (mycobiont, mykes = fungus + bios = life) and an alga (phycobiont, phykos = alga + bios = life). The fungus is an ascomycete or a basidiomycete. The algal partner is either a blue-green or a green alga. The association can be parasitic, in which the fungus eventually kills the algal cells; or it can be mutualistic, in which both fungus and algal cells benefit. Mutual benefits include algal nutrition that benefits the fungus because of the presence of chlorophyll for photosynthesis in the alga. And protection for the smaller alga is provided by the fungus. Lichens can tolerate harsh conditions such as dryness, arctic cold, and bare rock habitats. They possibly live for thousands of years. Characteristics. The upper cortex (a) is the outer protective layer with fungal hyphae gelatinized and cemented together. Next is the algal layer (b). Most lichens are associated with the unicellular green alga, Trebouxia. So far, over 30 genera of algae have been found associated with lichens. Most of the lichen body (thallus) is made up of medulla (c) with hyphae loosely interwoven. The medulla retains moisture and stores food. The thallus may take different forms. Crustose lichens are extremely flat and only ascocarps (fruiting bodies of the fungus, see 48) may be visible. (See drawing opposite of Graphis scripta). They are found on rocks and trees. The medulla may be embedded in rock surfaces. Foliose lichens have a leafy thallus and may have a compacted lower cortex (d) and rootlike anchoring devices called rhizines (e). (See drawings opposite of Xanthoria and Physcia aipolia.) Fruticose lichens with three-dimensional projections, called podetia, arise from a scale-like, loosely-attached (squamulose) base. (See drawings opposite of Cladonia cristatella and Cladonia pyxidata.) Reproduction. Various vegetative structures may be found on lichens, such as soredia and isidia. Soredia originate in the algal layer as masses of algae cells with a few gelatinized hyphae erupting through cracks in the surface cortex. By a process of breaking off, new lichen thalli are formed. An isidium is a projection on a foliose or fruticose lichen that serves as a vegetative propagule when broken off. Depending on the type of fungus, fruiting bodies with ascospores or basidiospores are produced. Lichens also have asexual structures called pycnidia, flask-shaped structures that produce microconidia. The
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fungal spore or microconidium must form an association with an appropriate alga in order to live. Of interest . . . arctic animal food: Cetrarias, Cladonia spp. (reindeer mosses), Usneas; human skin rash: Evernias, Usneas; dye: Letharia, Ochrolechia, Parmelia, Roccella; ecosystem succession role: lichens are often the first colonizers of bare substrate, breaking up rocks, due to their secretions of lichen acids; thalli form an anchor base for later colonizing plants. Sac Fungi: Euascomycetidae (Lecanorales) Graphis scripta Script Lichen

Found on hardwood trees, this crustose lichen thallus (f) has dark eruptions of apothecia (g). Xanthoria Found on rotten wood, the thallus (h) of this foliose lichen has apothecia composed of gray-green receptables (i) with brightly colored ascopsore layers (hymenia, j). Physcia aipolia Blister Lichen

This foliose lichen has a white-spotted thallus (k) with apothecia emerging from the surface cortex. The fertile layer of asci (hymenium, l) is gray with a gray-green receptacle (m). Cladonia cristatella British Soldiers

The fruticose podetium (n) arises from a squamulose thallus (o). Red apothecia (p) dot the top of the podetia. Cladonia pyxidata Pyxie Cup

The fruiticose podetia (q) resemble pyxie cups arising from a squamulose thallus (r). Brown apothecia (s) dot the cup rims. COLOR CODE gray: green: white: black: gray-green: cortex (a, d), thallus (f), hymenium (l) algae (b) medulla (c) rhizines (e), apothecia (g) thallus (h, k, o, r), receptacle (i, m), podetium (n, q) yellow-orange: hymenium (j) red: apothecium (p) brown: apothecium (s)