Saturday, 18 February 2012

Like a lichen

Living in the rainforest, as any fule kno, is entirely different from working in it. With the strict time limits of research, you have to focus on your target taxa. There's usually not much opportunity to look at other things. But when you live in the forest, you can...ooh, look, there's a butterfly...I don't know what it is...where's my book...ah, it's one of those. Okay, what was I saying?

The rainforest is full of stuff about which I have no idea. Not a clue. Not even the merest inkling. Fungi, mosses, lichens and liverworts are complete unknowns to me, but they are on my list of Things To Study. As you can imagine, this list increases daily. And so does yours. I know. Don't try to pretend you're not interested in stuff.

I have fungi books. I have a copy of David Meagher and Bruce Fuhrer's Field Guide to the Mosses and Allied Plants of South Australia, which won't necessarily let me get the local mosses and liverworts to species, but will help me work out what characters are important. (The Australian National Botanic Gardens and the Australian Biological Resources Study also have some useful web sites on liverworts, mosses and lichens.) I have a x10 hand lens (but no dissecting microscope). I have a rainforest. Right, all I need is time. Oh, and a dissecting microscope.

Here's what a found in a few minutes along a couple of metres of fallen timber in the back garden. This is going to be a big job.

First the fungi...The ones I could see, anyway.

Then the lichens and bryophytes — liverworts and mosses. (Notice how vague I am about what's what? I think photos 2 to 4 below are lichens, 5 is a liverwort and 6 is a moss, but I ain't staking anything on it. Oh, all right, if you push me, I'll say that 6 is definitely a moss. With a small lichen. Or is it a liverwort?)

And you know what makes it worse? There are animals associated with every one of those groups. Flies and other insects on the fungi. Springtails on the bryophytes. Even tardigrades. Tardigrades! Now what's not to love about those little critters?

Yep, I need a few more lifetimes. Or more coffee. No, I need both.


Psi Wavefunction said...

For no particular reason whatsoever (>_>), how difficult would it be to hypothetically mail a wad of moss over to the US? Purely hypothetically, not at all a protist freak enamoured by exotic microhabitats or anything ;-)

Thought I might also know a couple moss-dwelling testate amoebae experts in Canada and Switzerland...

PS: You're so lucky to live and work in such a gorgeous and utterly diverse place! Love your blog...

Snail said...

No, not at all obsessed! I understand. And before anyone has conniptions, we should probably point out that you're engaging in some wishful thinking.

I think that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, especially for an individual. Not so much because of the plants --- nurseries send plants overseas all the time --- but because of the microorganisms themselves.

There's no other solution --- you'll just have to grab a microscope and come over to look for yourself!