RIVERSIDE, Calif. A researcher at UC Riverside has discovered a new species of lichen a plant-like growth that looks like moss or a dry leaf and named it after President Barack Obama.
"I discovered the new species in 2007 while doing a survey for lichen diversity on Santa Rosa Island in California," said Kerry Knudsen, the lichen curator in the UCR Herbarium. "I named it Caloplaca obamae to show my appreciation for the president's support of science and science education."
Knudsen published his discovery in the March issue of the journal Opuscula Philolichenum.
"I made the final collections of C. obamae during the suspenseful final weeks of President Obama's campaign for the United States presidency, and this paper was written during the international jubilation over his election," Knudsen said. "Indeed, the final draft was completed on the very day of President Obama's inauguration."
C. obamae, the first species of any organism to be named in honor of President Obama, grows on soil and almost became extinct during the days of cattle ranching that spanned nearly a hundred years on Santa Rosa Island.
"This species barely survived the intensive grazing of cattle, elk and deer on Santa Rosa Island," Knudsen said. "But with cattle now removed, it has begun to recover. With future removal of elk and deer both of which were introduced to the island it is expected to fully recover."
Lichens, which grow slowly and live for many years, result from fungi and algae living together. They represent an important element of the biodiversity of life on public lands. There are approximately 17,000 species of lichen worldwide, with approximately 1,500 species reported from California. More than 300 lichens have been reported from Santa Rosa Island, almost as many species of native plants on the island.
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University of California - Riverside