Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Botanists super-excited over lichen finds

AT LEAST ten new species of lichen have been found on the Isle of Man following a visit by members of the British Lichen Society. Island naturalists are excited by new information about wildlife diversity following The visitors explored a number of key habitats around the Island over four days and found at least ten species of lichens new to the Island list.
Lichens are an attractive, but perhaps not widely appreciated group. Each is actually a combination of two kinds of organisms: a fungus, and either a type of alga or a blue-green alga (blue-green algae are actually bacteria). This association is mutually beneficial; the fungus provides a protective structure for the alga component, which in turn contributes food through photosynthesis.
 
Able to grow on many kinds of surface, including rocks, stone walls, tree bark, fence posts and bare earth, lichens can survive in tough conditions such as sea spray-drenched cliffs and hot, dry heathland. There are even lichens that grow on living limpet shells on the seashore! Lichens were probably among the first colonisers of the land as the ice retreated at the end of the last ice age. They come in a variety of colours: black, greys, browns, greens and yellows, and form crusts, leaf-like extensions or shrubby growths, all on a miniature scale and very beautiful under magnification.

Much, much more here. This snippet is worth noting: One antibiotic produced by lichens, usnic acid, is active against MRSA.

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