New fungus found in lichen: Study

New fungus found in lichen: Study

Lichens have always held a special place in biology. They are composite organisms comprising of a fungi that live in partnership with microscopic algae. Now, a new genetic analysis of lichen has unveiled of the presence of a third symbiotic organism.

It is another fungus, basidiomycete yeast, which has been found in 52 genera of lichen in six continents. From the molecular dating, it has been found that the fungus is present since the beginning. Study’s lead researcher Toby Spribille has been studying lichens for quite a long time now.

Spribille said that it is almost impossible to re-synthesize lichens in the lab owing to which the researchers face difficulty in know the roles of the different symbioants. Recent advancements in metagenomics provide a new way to conduct research on lichens, shared Spribille.

His attention was caught by the new technology when he noticed lichen, Bryoria, which is found throughout conifer forests of the western United States and Canada. The researchers carried out Bryoria’s RNA and came to know about the presence of a third organism.

Initially, the researchers thought that it could be the result of contamination. The researchers then looked for the basidiomycete in other lichens and they found them in everything, from Alaska to Ethiopia to Antarctica.

Kathleen Treseder, a fungal ecologist at the University of California Irvine, said, “This is an exciting discovery that forces us to reconsider what we thought we knew about lichens. It would not have been possible without recent technological advances in how we study fungi”.

Now, the researchers are studying the new fungus more closely. The classic view of lichen is that the photosynthetic organism provides food and the fungus offers shelter and structure.