Xanthoparmelia plittii and Umbilicaria mammulata

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Most of us walk past lichen-covered rocks, splotched with grays, greens, and golds, without giving them a closer look. Ari Daniel Shapiro visits with mycologist Anne Pringle and graduate student Benjamin Wolfe to learn about these amazing symbiotic organisms, formed when a fungus partners with an algae. Each lichen can host an entire microcosm, a microbial landscape teeming with life. These worlds-within-worlds are proving an invaluable tool for scientists studying our changing landscapes.

Umbilicaria. Photo Credit: Benjamin Wolfe

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