Lichens are found throughout the world, growing on tree trunks and rocks. Lichens can be found in some of the harshest environments, such as the arctic tundra, which makes them great subjects for winter science!
Lichens are the result of a symbiotic, or mutually beneficial, partnership between a fungus and an alga plant or a bacterium. In other words, they are technically not plants, but rather a living biological partnership.
In the lichen partnership, the fungi protect the algae or bacteria that live below. In turn, the algae or bacteria provide the fungi with the sugars they need to grow.
Lichens reproduce through the use of diaspores, which are released into the air. The diaspore is simply a spore with some additional tissue. Lichen diaspores contain spores from the fungus plus a few cells from the alga or bacterium. Once the diaspora lands in a suitable place, it grows and develops into another lichen.
Fun Fact – Biologists often study lichens in old cemeteries!
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