Navigation Links
Lichen evolved on 2 tracks, like marsupials and mammals
Date:5/2/2011

DURHAM, N.C. Lichen, those drab, fuzzy growths found on rocks and trees, aren't as cuddly and charismatic as kangaroos or intriguing as opossums, but they could be a fungal equivalent, at least evolutionarily.

A Duke research team has found that lichen that seem identical in all outward appearances and produce the same internal chemicals are in fact two different species, one living in North America and one in Australia. They're an example of "convergent evolution," in which two species evolve separately but end up looking very similar, like the Tasmanian wolf and the American wolf.

The lichens developed the same adaptations to survive and thrive in vastly different regions of the world. Since they show the same evolutionary patterns as marsupials and mammals, but are easier to study, they could become model organisms to further probe how mammals and other groups of organisms evolve, said Duke biologist Brendan Hodkinson.

"Lichen can often seem dull and uncharismatic, but these two species turned out to be quite intriguing," said Hodkinson, a graduate student in the lab of Duke lichenologist Franois Lutzoni. "They're like sugar gliders and flying squirrels or wombats and groundhogs. They're fungal examples of convergent evolution."

Scientists originally labeled specimens from both continents Xanthoparmelia tasmanica, which, like all lichen, is a type of fungus that "farms" algae. The lichen specimens were thought to be one species because they shared the same body plan and produced the same chemicals.

But given the lichens' geography and the natural history of other species, some scientists still questioned whether the organisms were truly identical, even though previous tests showed that they were.

When the question came up again in 2009, Hodkinson and James Lendemer of the New York Botanical Garden gathered lichen samples from North America and Australian specimens preserved in herbariums at Duke and the New York Botanical Garden to find out. They studied the organisms' body structure and chemical composition and also found no difference.

But then the lichenologists looked at the organisms' DNA, which nobody had done before.

Hodkinson and Lendemer used this analysis and computer modeling of the lichens' evolution to digitally reconstruct a family tree. The tree clearly showed that the Australian lichen evolved on a branch completely separate from the North American lichen, suggesting that the organisms are separate species.

The lichenologists describe their work and rename the North American lichen species Xanthoparmelia hypofusca, following past lichen literature, in a paper that appears in the latest issue of the journal Bibliotheca Lichenologica.

Hodkinson added that lichen are important for another reason. Like canaries in a noxious coal mine, lichen die when the air is unhealthy. Scientists have already seen some species disappear in Europe since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. A few were hardy and came back when air quality improved, but "we may not always be that lucky and we could see some lichen go the way of the Tasmanian wolf -- extinct," he said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Ashley Yeager
ashley.yeager@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Lichens function as indicators of nitrogen pollution in forests
2. UC Riverside researcher names lichen after President Barack Obama
3. A new species of lichen discovered in the Iberian Peninsula
4. New scholarly paper reveals 100 new species of lichenized fungi
5. Study finds remarkable diversity of lichen species in Florida state park
6. Evolved Machines Selected as a Prime Contractor for DARPA Program to Engineer an Artificial Olfaction System
7. From seed to nuts: human ancestors face evolved to eat survival foods
8. American carnivores evolved to avoid each other, new study suggests
9. New discovery suggests trees evolved camouflage defense against long extinct predator
10. Aphids evolved special, surprising talents
11. MSU sea lamprey research sheds light on how stress hormones evolved
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/7/2016)... 2016  Syngrafii Inc. and San Antonio Credit ... includes integrating Syngrafii,s patented LongPen™ eSignature "Wet" solution ... will result in greater convenience for SACU members ... maintaining existing document workflow and compliance requirements. ... Highlights: ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... --  The Weather Company , an IBM Business (NYSE: ... in which consumers will be able to interact with IBM ... voice or text and receive relevant information about the product ... have long sought an advertising solution that can create a ... and valuable; and can scale across millions of interactions and ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing unparalleled technology to ... display is the latest premium product recently added to the range of products distributed ... ... ... Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/4/2016)... SPRINGFIELD, Mass. and CAMBRIDGE, ... South Africa , Dec. 4, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... and providing connected diagnostics software platforms for the ... on making "Anywhere. Care.™" a reality with its ... companies have entered into a development and license ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... 2016 CytRx Corporation (NASDAQ: CYTR ... oncology, today announced the appointment of Earl Warren ... and private healthcare investor, to its Board of Directors. ... clinical and strategic experience at the highest level," said ... "As one of the world,s leading orthopedic surgeons, Dr. ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 01, 2016 , ... ... Symposium (CSS) and the popularity of US Single Day Events (SDE) to organize ... early Summer 2018, in Raleigh, NC. Topics of the pharmaceutical and life sciences ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... ... Robots will storm the Prudential Center in Boston, MA during the ... held on the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, will highlight the ... Technologies is partnering with NTI to showcase how technology can help individuals with severe ...
Breaking Biology Technology: