With Hydropunctelia maura on supralittoral Si rock. To me very distinctive H. alaskensis, but in comparison with my previous observations exemplifies variability of that species. Note left thallus has no apothecia.
According to McCune’s Miscellaneous Keys to Microlichens of the Pacific Northwest of North America (Herteliana, revised 2006) “The dark numerous pycnidia can be very conspicuous against the pale thallus and distinctive, even when apothecia are lacking.”
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I’ve heard a convincing theory that they function as a sort of “sperm” seeding the development of an apothecium in another thallus. (I’ve forgotten which hyphae have which complement of chromosomes!) And frankly, I’d be surprised if it were the same across fungi, or even across all the independent origins of lichens.
I bet there was a juicy bird splat in this particular spot on that perfect day some many years ago, when sun, moisture, temperature, everything was just right. Ascospores are touching down on all surfaces regularly; I bet thallus initiation is limited not by the chance encounter of a spore, but rather by the precise conditions on the surface.
There’s an anecdotal story attributed to Yngvar Gauslaa. He inoculated a patch of bark with Sticta fuliginosa(?) one year. He revisited the tree repeatedly over the years. Nothing happened. He would return less and less frequently, until one year after he’d all but forgotten about the “failed” experiment: There, all of a sudden, are dozens of tiny little Sticta thalli. Our interpretation was that presence of diaspores (isidia in his case) is insufficient. Somehow they hung out there and survived for years. Then one day conditions are just right, and they all simultaneously establish and start to grow out into full-blown thalli.
So maybe over the years, spores of all sorts of different species were collecting on your seaside rock. Then one year the conditions are just so for this species, and all the spores (three in this case) “wake up” and this is what results.
(Sorry for taking so long to get back to this. Probably missing replying to some comments due to incurable disorganization.) I see what you mean. Not only are there 2 distinct areas for the rosette on the right, but also a raised “struggle zone” between them.
Many questions arise, e.g. how does it come about that perhaps 3 different spores take hold so near to one another, and relatively very few on the rest of the rock. (Obviously there is one just below on the right, but the cliff didn’t have all that many.) And it would seem that this species reproduces mostly via pycnospores, but would not the difference between the adjacent “individuals” imply that they originated from ascospores?
Makes me wonder if the rosette on the right was actually started simultaneously by two different individuals side-by-side. Neat effect. And very striking species, as you say.
I totally agree that the more you learn about something the easier it is to see the beauty in it. But plants, mosses and mushrooms also tend to hide a great deal of beauty visible only under the hand lens. And this one is certainly a cut above the average!
Created: 2012-05-23 13:32:56 EDT (-0400)
Last modified: 2012-05-23 14:01:30 EDT (-0400)
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