This lichen grows in a crust-like fashion; the thallus is thin and pale greenish-yellow in colour with a cracked surface (3). The Latin name of the genus Opegrapha means 'hidden writing', this refers to the long fruits, called 'lirellae', which often have a dark outer margin (4), and may resemble Chinese writing or hieroglyphs (5). In this species, however, the fruiting bodies are 'boat shaped' (2).
Lichens are remarkable organisms; they are stable combinations of an alga and/ or a cyanobacteria with a fungus, living together in a symbiotic association (4). The fungus causes the alga to release sugars, which allow the fungus to grow, reproduce and generally survive. The fungus provides protection for the alga, and enables it to live in environments in which it could not survive without the fungal partner (4). A general rule is that the fungal component of a lichen is unable to live independently, but the alga may live without the fungus as a distinct species (7). Many lichens are known to be very sensitive to environmental pollution, and they have been used as 'indicators' of pollution (6). The taxonomy of this species is not certain, and work is needed to investigate the taxonomic relationships within the Opegrapha genus (3).
This lichen has been lost from two sites in the UK, one in Gwent, the other in Cumbria, and from a site in County Galway in Ireland. The reasons for the decline of this species are not known, and the threats facing it have not yet been identified (3).
A collection of taxonomically unrelated groups that share some common features but are grouped together for historical reasons and for convenience. They are of simple construction, and are mainly photoautotrophic, obtaining all their energy from light and carbon dioxide, and possess the photosynthetic pigment, chlorophyll A. They range in complexity from microscopic single cells to very complex plant-like forms, such as kelps. Algal groups include blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), red algae (rhodophyta), green algae (chlorophyta), brown algae and diatoms (chromista) as well as euglenophyta.
A group of bacteria that are able to photosynthesise and contain the pigment chlorophyll. They used to be known as ‘blue-green algae’. They are thought to have been the first organisms to produce oxygen; fossil cyanobacteria have been found in 3000 million year old rocks. As they are responsible for the oxygen in the atmosphere they have played an essential role in influencing the course of evolution on this planet.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Fungi are one of the taxonomic kingdoms, separate from plants and animals. They obtain nutrients by absorbing organic compounds from the surrounding environment.
Relationship in which two organisms form a close association, the term is now usually used only for associations that benefit both organisms (a mutualism).
Type of simple plant body that does not have stems, leaves and roots.
Church, J. M., Coppins, B. J., Gilbert, O. L., James, P. W. & Stewart, N. F. (1996) Red Data Book of Britain and Ireland: lichens. Volume 1: Britain. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.
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