What is the purpose of these white spots on this lichen?

Hi. I believe this is a cartilage lichen showing its inner white medullary fungal hyphae (pseudocyphellae). What benefit do these holes provide to a lichen?

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Welcome to the fourm! I am not sure. Do you know what kind of plant this is? If this is your image and you have not yet try posting it to iNaturalist!

It’s a lichen, not a plant…


My first thought is that this is predation by an insect, possibly a weevil. I’m not positive of course but there are a number of fungus beetles and other insects that feed on fungi.


A quick poke at the literature suggests gas exchange–analogous to the stomata in a leaf.


That makes sense. The cyphellae (I understand a much more rare structure) and pseudocyphellae functions are not addressed in their Wiki entries.

Thanks so much! I’m putting together a dissecting scope video of lichens and so it will help.

The pic is a screenshot from a video recorded at home, so not uploaded to iNat. If iNat supported shots of morphological features, I would upload tons! :) Common physical traits are SO interesting!


Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve added a reference for pseudocyphellae, but I don’t actually have access beyond the abstract, so someone might be able to expand on that.

Having more support for keying, guides, illustration of morphology, etc., would definitely be a logical extension for iNat, but crowdsourcing that is a tough puzzle–it requires a lot of exercise of expert judgment that can’t be mathematically aggregated in the way taxon IDs can.


:) I look forward to seeing more of your observations! Why not just use your screen shot? You need to enter the location and date manually, but it works!

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Interesting points! I worked for a few years developing a java site called phototaxa, which was never completed. I addressed this issue carefully with the very goal of crowdsourcing morphological data. We designed the site to catalog ancestral (apomorphic) morphological traits onto published taxonomic taxonID trees.

The approach was to consider both species level characters and apomorphic characters as identification aids. We devised a way to pass the traits down the tree and switching on/off as they are in individual taxa.

We also devised a robust character annotator using the now deprecated java applet.

I’ve raised the possibility of it here a few times over the years without luck. Here is a sample of the thinking.


Totally over my head… None the less, ingenuous!

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Any thoughts on the response?

I gave up raising this due to the knee-jerk critics, who reflexively quash without intelligent discussion.

Wasn’t expecting this from someone who actually raised the issue. Be different if one of the principals were toying with this idea. This is the very hinge of the longstanding morphology/molecular dichotomy. I suppose there’s no limelight here. :roll_eyes:

I think this thread is dead, but don’t be fooled by the geeky table and category terms. Look at columns 3 and 4. It’s really simple and accounts for most any organism part description.

hmm… I must be the only person who LOVES this :face_with_raised_eyebrow: bummer

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Maybe… but consider that the title is a question about lichens.

Not a lot of people will know the answer about lichens, which are quite a special knowledge set. Thus, many may not click to read through and read all the responses. I would not think people reading this particular topic are thinking much about knowledge systems. Perhaps there is a better place to post your own topic about the data system you describe? Maybe in the General category?

Forgive me if I misinterpreted your responses.

Yes I agree with you. Long shot that choess would take this up and who else would find it buried here. Good point :slightly_smiling_face:

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Sorry for the long delay. This is a really neat idea! I should be clear, though, that I’m just a rando with a long track record of identifying ferns, not a developer.

I do think there are going to be some issues to be tackled outside of the software framework you’ve developed. For a significant number of characters, that’s probably going to require making a collection and doing measurements in a somewhat controlled environment, so there’s a higher barrier to entry and a rather different userbase than the modal iNat user. It just feels like it will require more intense attention from specialists or experts in each taxonomic group, and that may wind up cutting against the egalitarian ethos that’s been cultivated in iNat.

That said, developing crowdsourced keys to complement crowdsourced observation data would be a very logical move for the site, and our existing methods of doing it, with information spread haphazardly over individual journal entries, projects, and observations isn’t very effective. Maybe start a new post on Feature Requests with a link to your description in this thread? I’m sure iNat staff have thought about this issue before, internally, and they might be interested in what you’ve done on the tech side.

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Yes I understand your points and thank you for taking time. I should and will post it as you mentioned to hopefully talk about it.

I addressed the measurements issue by distinguishing images intended to depict non-molecular identification aids (characters), visible bare-eyed or under magnification. Users choose their level of participation. If they wish to submit character images, they then follow steps.

In addition to research grade, iNat tags excellent representative images in some way. It also has pages for ancestral taxa. It is very easy to build out metadata and classes of metadata per taxon.

So users would not have to change their contributions unless they wished to participate. Those wanting to submit images that served as i.e. morphological gross or microscopic identification aids, etc. would be a subset of users, probably open to working with constraints.

Identification aids are informal to the extent that field guides cover most of them. Ancestral identifying characters that gave rise to new species are sometimes buried in journals and sometimes nothing more than findings of DNA/gene study. It makes sense to include what can easily be documented. This doesn’t answer all questions, but offers an enormous learning opportunity for users.

So to me it makes sense for the crowd to photographically document and cite generally accepted identification aids for as many taxa as there is information available.

Ancestral taxa such as chordates do have their pages here but do not have useful metadata. Just image lists, that feel a bit pointless without attention to what makes the particular ancestral taxon unique.

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