Blogs & Videos: Lichens

A selection of lichens with "baby" lichens (tiny phyllidia and lobules destined to form new lichen individuals)

How lichens reproduce with "greenhorn" baby lichens...

As a symbiosis between a fungus and a photosynthetic alga or cyanobacterium, lichens have particular challenges when it comes to reproduction and growing fully mature lichens out of tiny baby lichens. Many lichens have mastered this challenge by producing small thallus portions that already look like tiny lichens and, once dispersed, immediately start growing and forming a fully functional lichen. These tiny "greenhorn" lichens growing on their parent lichen are called phyllidia or lobules, due to their flattened appearance that resembles the lobes of mature lichens, only much smaller.

A selection of charismatic Lobariaceae lichens in New Zealand

Lichens as bioindicators of forest health

Going green is all about conserving the environment. Not just because a healthy environment increases our quality of living, but because we owe it to the next generations to conserve our planet so they have a chance to enjoy its spectacular beauty and diversity as we do. Since forests are one of the primary sources of oxigen, conservation of forests is of great importance both in temperate and tropical areas. In many regions, forests are monitored as to their conservation status, and bioindicators are an important tool to accomplish this task.

A recently discovered, yet undescribed "window" lichen from Hawaii

"Window" lichens mimick highly adapted desert plants

Lichens come in all colors and shapes, but many lichens are green when hydrated and metabolizing, due to their green algal photobionts. So it is not surprising that lichens are often mistaken for plants, even if they actually represent symbiotic fungi and hence are more closely related to animals. To make the confusion perfect, the internal anatomy of many lichens resembles that of plant leaves, with the photobiont layer positioned in a similar way as the chlorophyll layer in leaves.

The tiny lichen Gyalectidium setiferum is spreading in central Europe on suitable evergreen plants due to global warming.

Hoping for global warming after a cold winter... and lichens as bioindicators of climate change

This month's topic is March and green. Of course, everybody by now is anxiously waiting for spring, to get rid of the polar vortex. Hopefully that will happen soon! By the way, the expanded polar vortex that affects large parts of North America with bitter cold is a direct consequence of global warming!

Lichens: a lasting relationship like farmers and crops

Lichens: a lasting relationship like farmers and crops

With their stable symbiosis between a fungus and an alga, lichens are a prime example for lasting relationships. But these lichen fungi do not simply host their algae, they actually grow them as much as farmers grow their crop. And just as farmers select the best crop to propagate, lichen fungi do the same. Not conciously, but through the process of selective evolution.

When relationships aren't what they seem

When relationships aren't what they seem

February is all about relationships. But isn't it sad that we need a special month to dedicate ourselves to our relationships? In biological sciences, almost everything is about relationships. All year round. With the difference that we do not call them romantic or platonic, but instead phylogenetic or evolutionary. The most basic question in biology is how organisms are related to each other. This can be done by studying all kinds of features or by just analyzing DNA sequences.

A lichen threesome

A lichen threesome

It's February, and Valentine's Day is upon us. Everyone is thinking about that significant other. That significant other is usually a single person in a monogamous relationship, although many variations are known in human cultures. Once you look outside the human species, anything goes. No matter how weird certain constellations might seem, they have been invented already, by animals, plants, fungi, millions of years before humans appeared on Earth.

Field Museum Women in Science (FMWIS) Internships 2014 -- Hannah Davis

Learn more about FMWIS intern Hannah Davis, and project, "Walking Lichens" and her main supervisors were Jim Boone and Robert Luecking, with subsequent supervisors being Allie Stone and Kelsey Keaton. She mainly worked in the Insect Collection, which holds over four-and-a-half million specimens. Hannah sifted through drawers of Praying Mantids, Katydids, Grasshoppers, Treehoppers, Walking Sticks, and Moths, looking for species which mimicked lichen. Her "mini-collection" consisted of 106 specimens belonging to 88 unique species. 

Field Museum researchers and collaborators describe 175 new lichen species in a single family at once

Recent studies of the global diversity of the lichenized fungal family Graphidaceae suggest that there are a large number of species remaining to be discovered.Recent studies of the global diversity of the lichenized fungal family Graphidaceae suggest that there are a large number of species remaining to be discovered.

2014 REU Intern Ian Medeiros

ATM meets MET – Assembling a Taxonomic Monograph using Modern Electronic Tools

IAN MEDEIROS Sophomore Human Ecology (Botany focus) at The College of the Atlantic REU Mentors: Dr. Robert Lücking (Adjunct Curator and Collections Manager, Botany, S&E) and Dr. Thorsten Lumbsch (Curator and Associate Director of the Integrative Research Center, S&E) Symposium Presentation Title: Resolving the Phylogeny of the Wirthiotremateae (Graphidaceae) with Morphological and Molecular data