Printable Version of this PageHome PageRecent ChangesSearchSign In

:26 October 2016

lichens “There’s been over 140 years of microscopy. The idea that there’s something so fundamental that people have been missing is stunning” - Toby Spribille
A guy from Montana trailer park overturned 150 years of biology. Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are symbiotic alliances between two species - an alga and a fungus. But Toby Spribille, raised in a Montana trailer park and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult” overthrew that idea. He fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love with higher education because he didn't have formal education and transcripts. But one German university overlooked that fact and offered him a chance to pursue college and postgraduate education, where he studied lichens.

Lichens have an important place in biology. Early scientists thought that they were plants. But 150 years ago it was revealed that they’re composite organisms, consisting of fungi that live in partnership with algae. However, in all these years, biologists have tried in vain to grow lichens in laboratories. Whenever they artificially united the fungus and the alga, the two would never fully recreate their natural structures. It was as if something was missing. Toby showed that lichens are not alliances between two organisms. Instead, they’re alliances between three. All this time, a second type of fungus has been hiding in plain view. Read more here.

Fascinating science and a great example of why innate interest in science should be nurtured in all students.

Last modified 26 October 2016 at 3:17 pm by svattam