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The Tree Lichen can be most easily found in deciduous forests and woods especially wild places like Dartmoor or Bodmin Moor
LIchens are often composed of both a photosynthetic bacteria (genome size: 2 million bases) and a fungal component (30 million bases).
In Darwinian terms you need to go back some 600 million years to find the most recent common ancestor of Lichens to Homo Sapiens on the fungal side and if the photosynthetic partner is a cyanobacterium then it will be the last common ancestor maybe 3 billion years ago!
I should be sequenced because... To unravel the intricate symbiosis of Lichens requires the powerful combination of the offered techniques of PacBio and Illumina sequencing!
The Tree Lichen, Evernia prunastri, chosen for the 25 genomes project, can be found in many parts of the World including the United Kingdom. but particularly good specimens are confined to woodlands and Moors. They prefer to grow on bark of deciduous trees but have been found on Evergreens on occasion. The possibility of sequencing the Tree Lichen will help to develop further insights into their unique Symbiotic biology.
Lichens of bark come in other forms too as shown below (Photo taken in Sawston):-
As a comparison, many Lichens will grow on rocks of various types. Some examples are shown below. The first Lichen that resembles a Radio Telescope in shape, was taken on a tombstone in Sawston, near Cambridge UK, while the last one was from a rock in the glorious forested gorge of the Ardeche in the south of France.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
ancient, symbiotic, 'overlooked'
What's it like where you live?
As the name suggests we particularly like attaching to tree bark such as Oak or Ash. Other Lichen species can be found attached to rocks such as porous Limestones which is why they are so commonly found growing on old Church tombstones!
What's your favourite food?
Sunlight and water! I like to grow on Tree bark as it allows me to orientate myself to the Sun and if left undisturbed, grow a few milimetres each year. I also can obtain Carbon and Nitrogen from the atmosphere and even from the bark on which I grow.
What's your family life like?
That can be a complex situation as a Lichen is made up of at least two symbiotic partners. The simplest way is if a bit fragments off and this can re-grow to form an new LIchen entity..
Are you endangered or threatened by anything?
The Tree Lichen, Evernia prunastri, is not threatened as it is able to grow on a wide range of deciduous Trees. Other Lichens on the otherhand, like the Golden-Hair Lichen have been badly affected by loss of Elm Trees (Dutch Elm disease), hedgerows and 20th Century air-pollution
What's the best thing about you/interesting fact?
Lichens are remarkably tough. They are one of the few life forms that could survive and thrive in a Martian atmosphere lacking Oxygen, its extremes of temperature (-50 C to 23 C), ultra-violet radiation and absence of water! The atmosphere of Mars is thinner then on Earth and its main constituents are Carbon Dioxide, Nitrrogen and traces of Argon, Carbon Monoxide and Oxygen (0.13%). Survival of Lichens in such a toxic mix has been shown experimentally.
The champion of this species is...
Derek J. Pickard- I live near Cambridge in the UK. Essentailly I work as a Microbiologist and have an avid interest in Early evolutionary events going back some 3.5 billion years when microbes where the predominant life form to the time of the Cambrian 'explosion' some 550 milion years ago when multi-cellularity really took off...