The Habitats of Lichens

Some combinations are just meant to be together, like macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly. Today, we’re going to talk about another perfect pair – fungi and algae!

Wait, fungi and algae? It might not be what you expected, but they actually make a great team. This partnership is known as a lichen.

Many people mistake lichens for plants, but scientists classify them as part of the fungus kingdom. This is because lichens are composite organisms that always consist of at least one fungus and one alga. In some cases, three separate organisms can come together to form a lichen.

Why do fungi and algae make such a good team? They have a mutually beneficial relationship, also known as symbiosis. Each organism benefits from this partnership. The fungus helps the alga survive outside of water and provides protection from sunlight. On the other hand, the alga uses photosynthesis to produce food, which further helps the lichen thrive.

Where can you find lichens growing? The answer is almost anywhere! Experts estimate that there are around 15,000 species of lichens that can survive in various habitats. Many lichens prefer coastal areas because they can absorb water from the foggy climate. However, some varieties are capable of storing water and can thrive in drier regions. Lichens have even been found in deserts and polar regions.

Lichens are commonly found growing on tree bark, as well as rocks. You might even spot them on human-made objects, such as houses and bridges. These organisms grow very slowly, as pieces of the lichen break off and start growing nearby. Despite their slow growth, lichens can become quite large and live for hundreds of years.

Scientists find lichens to be very useful. They can indicate the air quality of a region. Lichens thrive in places with healthy levels of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon. If you see lichens growing, it’s a sign that the air quality is good. Lichens also produce antibacterial and antiviral substances that are used in medicine.

In addition, lichens play an important role in their ecosystems. They contribute to soil creation and serve as a food source for many animals. In Arctic regions, lichens are sometimes collected by the Sámi people to feed their reindeer.

Have you ever come across a lichen? They can often be seen while exploring outdoors. While some people may not pay much attention to them, others find them fascinating. Next time you’re out for a walk with your family, keep an eye out for these unique composite organisms – you never know where you might find one!

Give it a Try

Ready to continue learning? Ask an adult to help you with one or more of these activities:

What do lichens look like?

Lichens come in various shapes and sizes. Take a look at this photo gallery to see them for yourself. Have you ever encountered a lichen? Did any of them resemble the ones in these photos? Discuss your observations with a friend or family member.

Exploring Relationships Between Living Things

Delve deeper into the different types of relationships that exist among living organisms. Afterwards, create a poster or presentation that explains these relationships. Make sure to include relevant pictures and the most important facts about organism relationships. Share your completed project with a friend or family member. If you want more practice in public speaking, ask your teacher if you can present it to your classmates.

Discovering Mutual Symbiotic Relationships

Can you think of any other organisms that engage in mutually symbiotic relationships? If you’re unsure, seek assistance from an adult family member to conduct some online or library research. Compile a list of creatures that typically form beneficial partnerships with each other.

Wonder Sources

  • https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/lichens/about.shtml (accessed 05 Aug. 2020)
  • https://herbarium.usu.edu/fun-with-fungi/lichens (accessed 05 Aug. 2020)
  • https://www.britannica.com/science/lichen (accessed 05 Aug. 2020)
  • https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/lichens/habitat.shtml (accessed 05 Aug. 2020)

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