The fungi (Teloschistes flavicans) is a striking 'fruticose' or 'shrubby' tufted lichen, which is a bright orange colour (2) with highly branched, flattened lobes (7). The name of the genus Teloschistes means 'split ends' (7).
Lichens are remarkable organisms; they consist of an alga and a fungus living together in a symbiotic association(2). A general rule is that the fungal component of a lichen is unable to live independently, but the alga may live without the fungal partner as a distinct species (2). Many lichens are known to be very sensitive to environmental pollution, and they have been used as 'indicators' of pollution (3). This genus is thought by some experts to be very ancient, and some species may have remained unchanged for millions of years (6). The golden hair lichen reproduces asexually, either by the body of the lichen (the thallus) breaking into pieces, or by means of 'soredia', microscopic structures that look like powder to the naked eye, and contain fungal threads and a few algal cells (3).
At present this lichen is restricted to the Welsh coast and south-west England, but the range once extended into central England and along the coast to Kent. A population also occurred in the Firth of Clyde (2). In Europe, the distribution is Mediterranean-Atlantic, the northern extreme of which is in Anglesey. Elsewhere this lichen becomes widespread in tropical and the warmer temperate areas of the world (2)(8).
The main habitat of this species in the UK is coastal cliff-tops; it either grows on rock, amongst vegetation, or on stony ground (2). It occasionally occurs inland where it inhabits trunks of trees that are rich in nutrients, typically in parkland, hedgerows and orchards (2).
This species is known to be extremely sensitive to sulphur dioxide air pollution (5). Other possible threats include extended dry periods and trampling (5), eutrophication, in particular excess air-bourne ammonia resulting from applications of slurry (9), as well as loss of suitable habitat caused by excessive growth of ivy on hedgerow trees (9).
Although the golden hair lichen is not a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species, English Nature's Species Recovery Programme has carried out surveys of the species (2). Furthermore, the Countryside Council for Wales has carried out survey and monitoring work on this lichen (2), including an assessment of the health of populations after the Sea Empress oil spill (5). This lichen also receives special protection under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.
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.
Of asexual reproduction: reproduction that does not involve the formation of sex cells ('gametes'). In many species, asexual reproduction can occur by fission (or in plants 'vegetative reproduction'); part of the organism breaks away and develops into a separate individual. Some animals, including vertebrates can develop from unfertilised eggs, this process, known as parthenogenesis gives rise to offspring that are genetically identical to the parent
Fungi are one of the taxonomic kingdoms, separate from plants and animals. They obtain nutrients by absorbing organic compounds from the surrounding environment.
A microscopic structure formed by certain lichens as a means of vegetative propagation: it consists of a few fungal hyphae among which are enmeshed a few cells of the symbiont. To the naked eye soredia in masses appear as a granular or fine powder.
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.
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