Celebrating Christmas (or whatever you call this time of the year), today’s Friday Fellow is another lichen. And the reason I chose it is because it is known as Christmas wreath lichen due to its red and green color.
Scientifically known as Cryptothecia rubrocincta, the Christmas wreath lichen is found throughout the Americas, from the United States to Argentina, and usually grows on shady tree trunks. In mature specimens, three different color zones can be seen, a central grayish-green zone, an intermediate white zone, and an external red rim. The central zone is usually covered by red nodules which in some cases may hinder the visibility of the grayish-green color.
The red color is caused by a combination of a quinone, called cheidectonic acid, and beta-carotene, which together protect the organism from radiation and provides DNA repair.
Apparently, this lichen only reproduces asexually, thus not forming any sexual structures. For that reason, it was thought for some time that it could be a basidiomycete fungus, although most lichens are formed by ascomycete fungi. Nowadays, however, we know that it is actually an ascomycete. DNA extraction is difficult, though, because several microscopic fungi live inside the lichen, thus somewhat making it a very complex organism formed by several interconnected species.
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Elfie Stocker-Wörgötter (2010). Stress and Developmental Strategies in Lichens Symbioses and Stress, 525-546 DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-9449-0_27
Wikipedia. Cryptothecia rubrocincta. Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptothecia_rubrocincta>. Access on December 16, 2016.
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