A Miniature Lichen Forest in Brazil - Observation of the Week, 10/5/22

Our Observation of the Week is this Cladonia lichen, seen in Brazil by @paularomano

From 2004 through 2016, Paula Romano lived in Brazil’s Itatiaia National Park, a period which she considers “the golden period of my life because I had the opportunity of observing one of the most biodiverse places in the world every day. There, I got in touch with many researchers who helped me start to understand the dynamics of a forest.”

And in 2008 she came across the remarkable lichen you see above. “Lichens always called my attention,” says Paula. 

This Cladonia was a great surprise because I had no idea it was a lichen and I had never met someone who studies them. Its shape is totally different from any plant and lichen I had ever seen. I remember that the first time I saw it I was very astonished…I wonder how it evolved to reach that form.

A few weeks ago Paula posted her photos of this lichen to iNat and they were identified by @carlosvidigal, a Brazilian lichenologist, as potentially either Cladonia calycanthoides or Cladonia imperialis (more details would be needed to say for sure). I asked Carlos, who studied Cladonia for his masters degree, for some information about these lichen.

Both species occur on highlands and rock outcrops and can reach up to 15- 30 cm tall, making them the tallest in the genus. Members of this genus occur mostly on the ground, rocks or near the ground on dead wood. 

The majority of the species are characterized by this vertical thallus, which are called podetia. There are a great range of shapes and sizes but this one specifically we call “verticillate” as the scyphi (the cup) flares from the center from another scyphi, like growing in tiers. Recent studies show that Brazil is the center of diversity of Cladonia and they are everywhere.

Paula (above, in 2009) says she’s not an academic person but is interested in many areas of nature. “My main interest (or curiosity) has always been the connection among the species and how we are dependent on them, mainly insects in general,” she says, and she’s volunteering at a community garden, documenting the various plants and animals found there. She’s also been teaching Photography and Citizen Science workshops, drawing from her experience photographing nature since 2004. 

She joined iNaturalist last year, “mainly to make my observations useful.” 

It's nonsense to have so many useless observations. I was very bothered by it. It's also a very good way to study the biodiversity I’ve been registering since 2004 when I bought my first digital camera. Each photo I take I have in mind that it must have an educational function.

I can tell you that iNaturalist is a good therapy as well. There is always a celebration in my brain when an observation is used for research.

I don´t think [iNaturalist] has changed the way I interact with or see the natural world, but it certainly has emphasized it, made it deeper and wider. Much deeper and wider. Thanks to the identifications and maps, it's possible to show people how fragile some species are. 

(Photo of Paula by Patricia Sierra)

- Nearly 200 species of Cladonia have been posted to iNat, check out the observations here.

- Until recently, lichens were thought to be the symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae. But we now know there’s a third member of this partnership.

Publicado el 06 de octubre de 2022 a las 12:22 AM por tiwane tiwane


Oh, Great Job! @tiwane !
Beautiful and impressive finding by @paularomano !
I love Cladonia. Such a majestic lichen =)

Anotado por carlosvidigal hace más de un año

What an amazing lichen! Thank you for sharing these photos @paularomano and for all you do to encourage interest in Brazil's lichens and fungi @carlosvidigal. Abraços!

Anotado por deboas hace más de un año

That is very exciting, love to hear this. The idea of a miniature lichen forest drew me in to this post. There is something so magical about it. Thank you for sharing your observations with us, and for sharing articles like this too.

Anotado por paulabetz hace más de un año

So cool!

Anotado por yayemaster hace más de un año

Making observations useful - iNat's superpower!

Anotado por martinlucas hace más de un año

Glorious! Thank you Paula!

Anotado por susanhewitt hace más de un año

I love this line: "I can tell you that iNaturalist is a good therapy as well. "

Anotado por muir hace más de un año

Parabéns Paula, belo registro.
Note: altitude 2460m

Anotado por nelson_wisnik hace más de un año

This is wonderful! <3

Anotado por robinellison hace más de un año

What a fascinating organism, thank you for sharing!

Agreed that iNaturalist is good therapy :-)

Anotado por thomasanderson496 hace más de un año

I thoroughly enjoyed this essay and pictures by Paula. There is much to think about in her short essay. I particularly liked her thought on "how" she takes her pictures: "Each photo I take I have in mind that it must have an educational function." And, becoming a member of iNaturalist “mainly to make my observations useful” similarly reflects her goal of natural history education. iNaturalist is a fabulous forum where each of us can both learn and teach about nature at the same time.
The second picture, of the lichen in situ, is a beautiful example of her “main interest (or curiosity) has always been the connection among the species ...", as it shows its position in the forest floor habitat. Within the picture we can see how this Cladonia is living in a community that includes (at a minimum) a species of fern, a species of white lichen (lower right corner), another species of primitive green plant (center), and some kind of white plant (lower left). This is a great picture of what Charles Darwin called the "tangled bank", in which he imagined a multitude of species of plants and animals evolve in response to competition and cooperation among themselves to survive and reproduce.
I think that we can all learn some important things from this essay. Thank you Paula.

Anotado por rdsage hace más de un año

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