Lichens are actually fascinating organisms. Able to grow in the harshest environments on earth they are a source of food and nesting material for many animals, and have been used as food and medicine by humans for many years. They can live a long time, too. According to the National Audubon Society specimens 4,000 years old have been found. Here’s a few of our common Northwest species:

Lichens have been in the news lately. No they’ve not committed any acts of violence or terror but they have revealed an anatomical surprise – they are composed of two different fungal type and algae. Now that might not cause you to lay awake tonight but for lichen likers like myself it is a pretty big deal. I was taught, as were many biological student generations before me, that a lichen is composed of a fungi and an algae. The fungal part of the organism surrounds the algae, provides an anchor to the substrate, and absorption of water and necessary nutrients. Cyanobacteria, known as “blue-green algae” convert energy from the sun via photosynthesis. All this has been known for many years. For about 150 or so of those years, however, it was thought that just one fungal species existed in this symbiotic relationship – ascomycete. Now thanks to the persistence of a lifelong lichen lover named Toby Spribille, we know that there are actually two kinds of fungus – an ascomycete and a basidiomycete. Read the story here:

How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology

What having lived in a trailer park has anything to do with this I do not know. I lived in one for quite a while myself. But HOOAH for ya, Toby.

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