High Life Expectancy of Bacteria on Lichens

Tomislav Cernava, Gabriele Berg, Grube Martin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-sustaining lichen symbioses potentially can become very old, sometimes even thousands of years in nature. In the joint structures, algal partners are sheltered between fungal structures that are externally colonized by bacterial communities. With this arrangement lichens survive long periods of drought, and lichen thalli can be revitalized even after decades of dry storage in a herbarium. To study the effects of long-term ex situ storage on viability of indigenous bacterial communities we comparatively studied herbarium-stored material of the lung lichen, Lobaria pulmonaria. We discovered that a significant fraction of the lichen-associated bacterial community survives herbarium storage of nearly 80 years, and living bacteria can still be found in even older material. As the bacteria reside in the upper surface layers of the lichen material, we argue that the extracellular polysaccharides of lichens contribute to superior life expectancy of bacteria. Deeper understanding of underlying mechanisms could provide novel possibilities for biotechnological applications
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-513
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2016

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology


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