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any of a group of composite organisms made up of a fungus and one or more algae or cyanobacteria, forming a symbiotic association.

Symbiotic relationship
The fungus protects the alga from drying and from harsh conditions; the alga synthesizes and secretes carbohydrate that is taken up and utilized as food by the fungus.

Scientific Classification
Lichens are classified according to the type of fungal component (called the mycobiont). ascolichen = Ascomycetes basidiolichen = Basidiomycetes

The algal component (called the photobiont) green alga such as Trebouxia or Coccomyxa, or a cyanobacterium such as Nostoc or Scytonema.

Three Forms of Lichens

The body, or thallus, has a characteristic growth form: crust-like (crustose), leaf-like (foliose), or stalked, bush- or beard-like (fruticose).

compressed in forms and strongly attached to the substrate

Foliose Lichen
Leaf-like lichens

Stalked lichens

soredium, composed of a tuft of fungal hyphae surrounding one or more algal cells.

Food for reindeer

In Arctic and alpine regions such lichens as reindeer lichen serve as food for caribou and reindeer.

As food
Iceland moss, a bushlike lichen native to alpine and Arctic regions, has been used as food by human beings.

Economic Importance
A desert species, which can be blown away by the wind because it is only loosely attached, may be the manna described in the Bible. Species: Lecanora esculenta.

Indicator of air purity

Lichens are sensitive to air pollution, especially sulphur dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels. The types of lichens present in any environment can indicate the purity of the air.

Indicators of environmental contamination

Through their absorption of heavy metals and radioactive compounds, lichens may indicate environmental contamination.

As source of litmus
In the past, lichens have been used in dyeing and as a source of litmus, the acid-alkaline indicator. genus Variolaria, and used in chemistry to determine the presence of acids and bases in a solution.

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