A partnership apart

A partnership apart

DNA in hand, scientists dissect and redefine the iconic lichen mutualism

By Susan Milius, 10:04 AM October 22, 2009

After spending an afternoon with François Lutzoni, it’s hard to understand why more sports teams aren’t named for lichens. Or why lovers bother with roses instead of sending a dozen fruticose lichen thalli. Lichens, Lutzoni explains, form when living organisms mingle intimately and become something more complex, capable and gorgeous than they could ever be alone.

A long-time classic in discussions of taxonomically odd couples, lichens may form even more bizarre households than specialists ha...

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