Collection location: Flagstaff, Arizona, USA [Click for map]
I found this thing growing on what looks like a Phaeophyscia nigritella. It looks like a nonlichenized lichenicolous ascomycete.
Phaeophyscia nigritella: minute foliose lichen with green unicellular alga, smooth unmarked dark olive-brown upper surface, white corticate lower surface with abundant short white rhizines, and granular soredia in labriform soralia under upturned broad lobe-tips. All parts K- and C-.
Parasite: clustered black biatorine apothecia; prominant smooth raised rim, colorless epihymenium and hymenium, brownish hypothecium, thick red-brown uniform exciple; asci cylindrical, K/I- to reddish, walls 1 µ thick throughout; spores 8 per ascus, hyaline, 1 cell, 1-2 bubbles, smooth, textured inside; paraphyses simple, mostly unbranched, smooth, not to somewhat thickening toward tips
There are very few lichenized fungi with apothecia that are K/I-. (Trapeliopsis and Placynthiella are two examples.) There are almost no macrolichens with biatorine (or lecideine) apothecia. (Coccocarpia is one.) This is clearly none of the above. The only thing that makes sense is that the apothecia belong to an unlichenized parasitic species on a lichen. Coincidence of soralia and apothecia on the same thallus is not necessarily unusual, however finding apothecia only in one or two isolated dense clusters on one side of a single contiguous thallus is unusual.
(The golden lichen in the one photo is Xanthomendoza fallax, by the way.)
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Since this was the freshest material Paul had at his disposal, he designated this the type specimen when describing it (to be published later this year, I believe). It will be stored at the Arizona State University herbarium.
Seems this species is well-known, but in an as-yet undescribed genus. Paul Diederich says: “It is confined to Phaeophyscia species, and I have seen material from Europe, the USA (Arizona and California), Mexico and Paraguay”. So I guess this isn’t getting a name anytime soon…