Lichen Microbiome

Microbiome Over Time and Space

Lichens have very rarely been the subject of large-scale microbiome studies, but this is beginning to change. It is fascinating for me to think that bacteria was first proposed to be part of lichens in 1930's! But it was not until the 2000's that researchers started utilizing DNA techniques to prove the concept of lichens as multi-symbioses or meta-organisms.

My NSF postdoctoral research focused in developing the first long time scale comparisons dataset of microbiome studies utilizing herbarium collections. This is an approach that incorporates another data layer to biological collections and therefore increasing their scientific value. I have been using Qiime2 to analyze over 1,400 samples now part of my dataset. I believe these research questions should unite lichenologists, mycologists, microbiologists and computational scientists with similar interests and complementary skills.


Current Projects:


- Differences in bacterial and fungal microbiomes in species and genera of the Dictyonema clade

- Evolution of microbiome in herbarium collections

- Utilizing FISH to detect bacterial communities in fresh versus historical collections (IT WORKED!!!)

A                                B                                C                                 D                              E

The five genera now accepted in Dictyonema s.l.  (also called Dictyonema clade) A: Acantholichen (micro-squamulose growth); B: Cora (foliose growth); C: Corella (foliose to macro-squamulose growth); D: Cyphellostereum (crustose to filamentous growth with cyphelloid fruiting body); and E: Dictyonema sensu stricto (crustose to filamentous growth).

Images credits: A Frank Bungartz; B, E Manuela Dal Forno; C, D Robert Lücking.

Preliminary analyses of principal coordinate analysis (PCO) on the microbiome of different species of Dictyonema s.l. (based on 16S rRNA data). A comparison of bacterial community composition of lichen thalli revealed clear differences among the different growth morphologies of Cora (yellow) and Dictyonema (blue).

Preliminary community profiling of the microbiome of different species of Dictyonema s.l. (based on 16S rRNA data). Foliose forms (Cora, Corella and Acantholichen) provide much less surface for bacteria to grow than Dictyonema and Scytonema (non-lichenized cyanobacteria).