“Comma Lichens”: {Arthonia sp.}

Arthonia (aka “Comma Lichens”)

Identification Characteristics

Description: Crustose lichens, with thalli usually very thin or actually growing beneath the upper layers of the substrate.  Fruiting bodies (ascomata) irregular to elongate & branching, or round & disk-like; asci broudly club-shaped or balloon-shaped with a thickened summit, K/I-, lying in a more or less uniform layer of branched & tangled hyphae making up the hymenium, which is usually K/I+ blue (hemiamyloid); without an exciple.

Spores: Colourless, ellipsoid to fusiform, usually with one end broader than the other, 2-8 cylindrical, thin-walled cells, often with 1 or 2 of the cells conspicuously larger than the others (a distinguishing characteristic).

Photobiont: green (Trentepohilia or unicellular species similar to Desmococcus).

Chemistry: Most species have no lichen substances & react PD-, K-, KC-, C-, but some have orange, K+ red-purple, anthraquinone pigments on the fruiting bodies.

Substrate: On bark, wood, or– less frequently– rocks.  Some species are entirely parasitic on other lichens.

Range: Most species are from tropical or temperate latitudes.

Lookalikes: This very large genus is greatly in need of study.  The genus Arthothelium is very similar & closely related, but it generally has larger fruiting bodies & larger, muriform spores.  The script lichens (Graphis & Phaeographis) have lirellae with a well-developed exciple, 7 the locules of the spores are lens-shaped.  Most Arthonia species grow on tree bark, but some are restricted to rock.  Arthonia phaeobaea, for example, forms large colonies on maritime rocks along both coasts.  It has a thin, orangish to brown thallus with round, black, convex ascomata resembling apothecia, 0.15 – 0.3 mm in diameter, & 3-6 celled, somewhat constricted, tapering spores.

Bibliography: Lichens of North America, by Brodo, Sharnoff, & Sharnoff

Database Entry:  Distance Everheart 12-26-13

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