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The development of isidia in thalli of Pseudevernia furfuracea from the Carnic Alps (North-eastern Italy), and the effects of these structures on CO2 gas exchanges were investigated. The ontogenetic events were studied by comparison of sections stained with different histochemical tests and SEM observations. A high cell turnover rate in both symbiotic partners is the first sign of isidium development, followed by an increased aplanosporogenesis of algae and growth of neighbouring medullary hyphae which become oriented upwards. Large nuclei and an intense cytoplasm activity characterize the mycobiont cells. The surface of very young isidia shows an irregular structure of spherical to ovoid protruding tips of perpendicular cortical hyphae, that are later organised in a pseudomeristematic area similar to that observed in the apex of growing lobes. CO2 gas exchange measurements carried out in the laboratory confirmed the high metabolic activity of isidia. At optimal water content and favourable light conditions, isolated isidia had rates of gross photosynthesis and dark respiration that were twice those of non-isidiate lobes. Isolated isidia also had a very low CO2 saturation point, probably because of their favourable surface/volume ratio, and a high light saturation, probably linked to their high content of photosynthetic pigments. The different roles played by isidia in the biology of Pseudevernia furfuracea, and particularly their rejuvenating effect on aged lobes, are discussed, and the presence of thalloconidia is briefly mentioned.
The factors influencing the predominance of one of the two mineral forms of calcium oxalate (CO), the monohydrated whewellite (COM) and the di-hydrated weddellite (COD), forming the pruina of the upper cortex of lichens, have been investigated through a simple, sensitive histochemical assay: toluidine blue O (TBO), a metachromatic staining test. The differential reactivity of 43 thalli of 17 pruinose foliose species, supplemented by X-ray diffraction analysis and observations with polarizing and scanning electron microscopy, suggests that the histochemical reactivity of hyphal walls and cementing substances of the upper cortex are related to the density of anionic charges. These factors are probably due to the occurrence of polyuronic acid substances that strongly affects the mineralization of CO. Di-hydrated wedellite is always associated with TBO metachromatic reactivity, and COM with orthochromatic reactivity. When the material has an ambiguous ortho/metachromatic reactivity, COD and COM may occur together. This study presents the first experimental evidence that in lichens CO biomineralization is at least partially biologically controlled.
The anatomy of Xanthomaculna convolute shows adaptation to a vagrant life form and to the moisture conditions of its habitat. The differential swelling of the irregularly thickened upper cortex and the medulla, in addition to the rigid medullary structure, due to the deposition of calcium oxalate, allow orderly hygroscopic thalline movements. The architecture of the medulla appears to be closely related to masonry-like arches where the material is only stressed by compression and the stresses are distributed at the hinges. The possible role of crystalline medullary deposition as a radiation reflector is also suggested.
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