That's life! Um, but are you sure?

From your obs list, what are the ones that would evoke the question, “Is that even alive?” from most non-naturalists?

I’ll start off with one I added last week from my old archives. (Can you guess what it is before clicking the obs link?)



Edit. This would be similar

I guess it’s a bit tricky with perennial plants, so seeing something like this Pacific Sanicle (Sanicula crassicaulis) out of season could leave one wondering whether the plant was really dead or just dried out for the season.

However, I do have this one observation that ended up as Human (Homo sapiens) which I thought was life but wasn’t so I’ll stick to identifying mostly plants for now.


Naturally :-) it is a mosaic of crustose saxicolous lichens. Mostly, maybe all of Lecanoromycetes. Yellow ones are Rhizocarpon.


I would not be so sure they are Lecanoromycetes. Could be pyrenomycetous which belong to different class. Too far to tell.

Aceria elongata, Crimson Erineum Mite, looks like my daughter’s fluorescent pink sparkly stuff splashed on Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum. (5/27/22)


I figure what is happening in the pictures is the lichens have all expanded as far as they can go and put up borders for the other species. Perhaps some species may lose ground or gain ground in the fight for growing space.

I think it’s a mix too. There’s a good description in the ID of another observation I found that looks very close to mine:

What’s the best way to ID a mosaic here? Just stick with the known (the yellow) or … ??

I tend to observe a lot of species that most people assume are random specks of dirt! Plant pathogens in particular are generally overlooked as being “alive”.

Olive Ring Spot Venturia oleaginea - a fungal disease of olive leaves, looks like a bit of dust smudged on a leaf to most people. - an undescribed lichen in genus Scoliciosporum, pictured growing on a single needle from a Sitka Spruce.

Another lichen, Fellhanera bouteillei, which grows on the surface of huckleberry leaves. The whole lichen here is under 0.5cm long.

Pine Needle Split, Lophodermium pinastri - small fungus of decaying pine needles

No, that’s not dirt specks on the coral lichen, it’s Opegrapha sphaerophoricola, a fungus that parasitizes this specific lichen species.

Fungus on douglas fir bark - someone was convinced it was just pockets of dried sap until I got it under the microscope and showed it had spores. Not sure exactly what it is, but probably genus Propolis.


Love it

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It is your choice entirely. Some people duplicate such IDs to as many as they think these are different species with a note “this OB is for dark grey species” and so on, or you can choose one species that can be somewhat IDed - yellow Rhizocarpon in your case. The other OBs will remain in the highest taxonomic levels, because they need microscopy and/or chemistry.


How about this one then? Spotted on a recent cruise in the Caribbean, I’m still in two minds whether it was some sort of sewage or oil slick or a mass of living organisms. Photos are taken from the top of a moving cruise liner, so not pin sharp unfortunately.


brown algae, Sargasso weed, something like that?

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One day I saw a weird pink mass at a cattail in a pond and I had no idea of what it was, maybe a very strange bubble gum or some plastic thing, but I ended finding out they were apple snail eggs!


When I look through State of Matter Life, I tend to see the exact opposite: the plant has a nutrient deficiency which the hopeful observer IDed as a virus.

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Seems you’re right - it is a planktonic species of Sargassum. A massive inundation was reported in the Caribbean a few months after I took these photos (2018).


Fascinating! I’ve made observations of Pine Needle Split, but I didn’t know about the fungus on huckleberry. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

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If you’re interested in such things, this is a great project:

If you hit search and filter it to your area, you can easily see what others have found nearby - makes it easier to have an idea of what to look out for!

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Non-adult stages of winged and once winged insects:
Genus Psyche:,