It has been found that 150 years of lichen symbiosis apparently included a third party. This was the common ingredient of flour products known as yeast.
For 150 years, lichens have been a classic example of symbiosis in Nature. Presently though scientists have uncovered a third partner in their cooperative scheme. This is none other than yeast. It came as quite a surprise.
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The yeast was found buried in the skin or cortex of the lichen. Scientists have acknowledged the sort of symbiosis that produces lichens. A fungus combines with a cyanobacteria or what is commonly called an alga. This relationship is mutually beneficial.
The study observed lichens living in the six continents. They were found to contain basidiomycete yeasts which are unicellular fungi. The function of these is to secrete chemicals that repel predatory agents and microbes from the bodies of the lichen.
Lichens may be genetically similar yet show different external physiognomies. The researchers have not been able to create lichen artificially in the lab either. It’s a difficult proposal.
The discovery of yeast as a third partner in the lichen symbiosis is an eye opener. It points towards a debunking of several myths that had been extant regarding symbiosis.
The yeasts represent an array of species whose existence was hitherto a moot point. It is a discovery that has shown the mirror to mankind. There are so many things just waiting to be discovered right beneath our very noses and we are unaware of them.
An early pioneer of the study of lichen said that there are many such species that are actually a combination of several agents that cooperate for the sake of mutual survival.
The alga and cyanobacteria produce food by converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugars that are then used up by the lichen.
In lichen we observe the cross-species cooperation in its ideal form. These lichen have the capability of surviving in the harshest of environments. They range from the frigid Arctic milieu to the hot and sultry desert.
Lichens come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and hues. They were also the first land species. Thus they represent the leap of life forms on earth from the ocean’s waves to a geological terrain.
Lichens have their similar genetic structures and a variety of phenotypes not to mention functional peculiarities. They are a hardy species that show a certain tenacity in their drive to survive on the earth.
The scientists have merely touched the tip of the iceberg here. The future will bring in its tow many more discoveries regarding lichens.
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The study was published online by the journal Science on Thursday, July 21, 2016.