Friday, February 3, 2012

Lichens! And a Flicker Feather!

Wow, we saw some really great lichens this week!

Our Mystery Lichen!  (Eagle from Cadwallader School in background)

A closer look at our mystery lichen! 

Above are two photos of the lichen we found this week. Lichen (pronounced "LIE-ken" in the U.S. or "LIH-chen" in England) is a wonderful symbiosis, or cooperation, between a fungus and (usually) an alga (algae).  The fungus provides a structure and a place to live, and the alga does photosynthesis and shares the glucose it creates with the fungus.  So both organisms benefit, and they live together, helping each other out.  How cool is that?

Here's a little story to help you remember all this:
Alice Alga and Freddie Fungus took a "lichen" to each other, and decided to go out on a "limb" and get married.  Alice made the food (by photosynthesis) to feed both of them, and Freddie built the house that they both lived in.  It was a great arrangement, and they lived happily together for many years.  Now I hear that their marriage is "on the rocks."  (Get it?) 

Now a little interactive quiz - can you tell which type of lichen ours is?

All the thousands of types of lichens are grouped into just a few categories based on their morphology, or shape, kind of like vertebrates are grouped into five categories (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals).  Here are the lichen morphologies (with photos from the internet):  

Foliose lichen is "leafy" like lettuce

Crustose lichen is like a thin, tough crust, often on rock (or tree trunks).

Fruticose lichens are "shrubby" like a bush. 

More info on lichen morphology types here.

Here's our mystery lichen again.  Can you tell what type it is?

So which type is ours?  Come on, take a guess.  (Then check your answer with Red Tail's guess, at the end of this post.) 

We also found this feather: 

Cool feather (from a flicker) with Red Chipmunk (Cadwallader School)

I don't know for sure, but I think our feather is from a Red-Shafted Flicker (one of five types of Northern Flicker - the Red-shafted Flicker lives west of the Rocky Mountains).  More info on Northern Flickers here.

Here's are two pictures of Northern Flickers from the internet:

Red-shafted Flicker (a type of Northern Flicker) in flight, showing the tail feathers

Northern Flicker in a more typical position

This was a really cool week despite me being gone for two days due to illness.  Thanks for all the fun, kids from Clark and Cadwallader Schools! You rock!  I am so proud of you!

My group!

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot!  My guess is that our mystery lichen is.... FRUTICOSE!  Wow, that's so cool!

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