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A Cyanolichen from the Lower Devonian Rhynie Chert

Thomas N. Taylor, Hagen Hass and Hans Kerp
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 84, No. 7 (Jul., 1997), pp. 992-1004
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2446290
Page Count: 13
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A Cyanolichen from the Lower Devonian Rhynie Chert
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Abstract

The 400 million-year-old Rhynie chert has provided a wealth of information about various types of fungal interactions that existed in this Early Devonian paleoecosystem In this paper we report the first unequivocal evidence of a lichen symbiosis from the Rhynie chert. Specimens of a new genus, Winfrenatia, consist of a thallus of superimposed layers of aseptate hyphae and, on the upper surface, numerous uniform depressions. Extending into the base of each depression are hyphae that form a three-dimensional netlike structure Enclosed within each of the net spaces is a coccoid cyanobacterium, each cell of which is surrounded by a thick sheath These photobiont cells divide in three planes, resulting in cell clusters of up to perhaps 64 individuals The photobiont is parasitized by the fungus in the base of each net as new cyanobacterial cells are formed distally. Reproduction is by endospores and soredia Affinities of the mycobiont appear closest to members of the Zygomycetes, while the photobiont is most similar to coccoid cyanobacteria of the Gloeocapsa and Chroococcidiopsis types We speculate that this cyanobacterial symbiosis was well adapted to exploit and colonize new ecological niches, especially in the periodically desiccated environment postulated for the Rhynie chert paleoecosystem.

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