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The earliest records of internally stratified cyanobacterial and algal lichens from the Lower Devonian of the Welsh Borderland


Honegger, Rosmarie; Edwards, Dianne; Axe, Lindsey (2013). The earliest records of internally stratified cyanobacterial and algal lichens from the Lower Devonian of the Welsh Borderland. New Phytologist, 197(1):264-275.

Abstract

Lichenization is assumed to be a very ancient mode of fungal nutrition, but fossil records are rare. Here we describe two fragments of exceptionally preserved, probably charred, lichen thalli with internal stratification. Cyanolichenomycites devonicus has a cyanobacterial and Chlorolichenomycites salopensis a unicellular, presumably green algal photobiont. Fruiting bodies are missing. Cyanolichenomycites devonicus forms asexual spores in a pycnidium. All specimens were examined with scanning electron microscopy techniques. The fossils were extracted by maceration. Extant lichens and free-living cyanobacteria were either experimentally charcoalified for comparison or conventionally prepared. Based on their septate hyphal structure, both specimens are tentatively interpreted as representatives of the Pezizomycotina (Ascomycota). Their presence in 415 million yr (Myr) old rocks from the Welsh Borderland predates existing Late Cretaceous records of pycnidial conidiomata by some 325 Myr and Triassic records of lichens with broadly similar organization by some 195 Myr. These fossils represent the oldest known record of lichens with symbionts and anatomy as typically found in morphologically advanced taxa today. The latter does not apply to Winfrenatia reticulata, the enigmatic crustose lichen fossil from the Lower Devonian, nor to presumed lichen-like organisms such as the Cambrian Farghera robusta or to the Lower Devonian Spongiophyton minutissimum.

Lichenization is assumed to be a very ancient mode of fungal nutrition, but fossil records are rare. Here we describe two fragments of exceptionally preserved, probably charred, lichen thalli with internal stratification. Cyanolichenomycites devonicus has a cyanobacterial and Chlorolichenomycites salopensis a unicellular, presumably green algal photobiont. Fruiting bodies are missing. Cyanolichenomycites devonicus forms asexual spores in a pycnidium. All specimens were examined with scanning electron microscopy techniques. The fossils were extracted by maceration. Extant lichens and free-living cyanobacteria were either experimentally charcoalified for comparison or conventionally prepared. Based on their septate hyphal structure, both specimens are tentatively interpreted as representatives of the Pezizomycotina (Ascomycota). Their presence in 415 million yr (Myr) old rocks from the Welsh Borderland predates existing Late Cretaceous records of pycnidial conidiomata by some 325 Myr and Triassic records of lichens with broadly similar organization by some 195 Myr. These fossils represent the oldest known record of lichens with symbionts and anatomy as typically found in morphologically advanced taxa today. The latter does not apply to Winfrenatia reticulata, the enigmatic crustose lichen fossil from the Lower Devonian, nor to presumed lichen-like organisms such as the Cambrian Farghera robusta or to the Lower Devonian Spongiophyton minutissimum.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
07 Faculty of Science > Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:22 Mar 2013 15:29
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:32
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0028-646X
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.12009
PubMed ID:23110612

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