Not too long ago, I wrote a post about lichens. In that post, I mentioned that lichens are made up of two separate organisms, a fungus and a photosynthetic alga or cyanobacterium.
But I was wrong.
A new paper published last month in the journal Science, revealed the startling reality that lichens harbor a third partner.
The third member of the lichen party is a type of yeast, classified as basidiomycete yeast.
This remarkable discovery was kind of an accident. Researchers were searching for an answer as to why some lichens can appear be so similar genetically, but have extremely different physical characteristics, like color. When the scientists took a closer look, they found something unexpected – the yeast hiding in the cortex of the lichen. They had found their answer.
The cortex is the outer region of the lichen where dense filaments of the fungus protect the lichen. The yeast in the cortex may also play a role in protecting the organism, or should I say organisms.
So there you have it. Yet another reason to like lichens.