Some of the creatures in this short video are lichens of course but since fungi are the dominant partner in most lichens I’ve put them in. Thanks to The Ruff Winkles for the fungal music (Carulli, Opus 34, Largo No.6, available on CD and highly recommended).
“Ahh…” I hear you say: “There are some algae that have relationships with fungi where the fungus is dominated by the alga”.
“You are entirely correct” I say:
Pelvetia canaliculata and Ascophyllum nodosum (channeled wrack and egg wrack) in North West Europe are seemingly universally hosts of Mycosphaerella ascophyllii (a fungus). It betrays its presence when fertile by showing up as little black dots on the fronds of the algae. Some lichenologists go so far as to claim that P. canaliculata and A.nodosum are not algae but lichens where the dominant partner is the alga rather than the fungus. What it does show is that living things are always inordinately more complicated in their relationships with each other and with the physical environment than we think.
To this day the language of biology is suffused with expressions like nature red in tooth and claw, survival of the fittest, and so on. Such ideas have been used by humans to justify all manner of repulsive and vile behaviors. Living creatures do of course eat each other and those that leave behind lots of offspring tend to pass their characteristics onto the next generation more successfully than those that don’t. However, life is also full of examples of cooperation and mutualism. Our very cells are powered by mitochondria which are probably the result of a conjunction of two different forms of life many millions of years ago. Chloroplasts are thought to have originated in a similar way. Most trees have mutualistic relationships with fungi in the form of mycorrhizae. Fungi grow as nodules on the roots or inside the root tissue and help liberate nutrients that the tree can access. Baby termites cannot digest their food (wood) until they have licked their mother’s bottom and swallowed to infuse their guts with the bacteria that provide the appropriate enzymes.
On that rather disturbing note we end this blog. Look out for the next one which hopefully will appear before Christmas.