Lichen on Mars

Humans cannot hope to survive life on Mars without plenty of protection from the surface radiation, freezing night temperatures and dust storms on the red planet. So they could be excused for marveling at humble Antarctic ...

Lichens are way younger than scientists thought

You've probably seen a lichen, even if you didn't realize it. If you've ever meandered through the forest and wondered what the crusty stuff on trees or rocks was, they're lichens, a combination of algae and fungi living ...

When the dinosaurs died, lichens thrived

When an asteroid smacked into the Earth 66 million years ago, it triggered mass extinctions all over the planet. The most famous victims were the dinosaurs, but early birds, insects, and other life forms took a hit too. The ...

Reindeer lichens are having more sex than expected

In northern Canada, the forest floor is carpeted with reindeer lichens. They look like a moss made of tiny gray branches, but they're stranger than that: they're composite organisms, a fungus and algae living together as ...

When it comes to genes, lichens embrace sharing economy

University of Colorado Boulder researchers have discovered the first known molecular evidence of obligate symbiosis in lichens, a distinctive co-evolutionary relationship that could shed new light on how and why some multicellular ...

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Lichen

Lichens ( /ˈlaɪkən/, sometimes /ˈlɪtʃən/) are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic organism composed of a fungus (the mycobiont) with a photosynthetic partner (the photobiont or phycobiont), usually either a green alga (commonly Trebouxia) or cyanobacterium (commonly Nostoc). The morphology, physiology and biochemistry of lichens are very different from those of the isolated fungus and alga in culture. Lichens occur in some of the most extreme environments on Earth—arctic tundra, hot deserts, rocky coasts, and toxic slag heaps. However, they are also abundant as epiphytes on leaves and branches in rain forests and temperate woodland, on bare rock, including walls and gravestones, and on exposed soil surfaces (e.g., Collema) in otherwise mesic habitats. Lichens are widespread and may be long-lived; however, many are also vulnerable to environmental disturbance, and may be useful to scientists in assessing the effects of air pollution, ozone depletion, and metal contamination. Lichens have also been used in making dyes and perfumes, as well as in traditional medicines.

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