William writes:

Hi TWiMers;

It is a nice late July evening here in Berkeley – 60F/15.5C – no fog, but we have had a bit less than usual summer fog this year.

Ran across this article which is fascinating  because it falls into the category of “what you thought was obvious, in fact is not.”

“Lichen: Apparently Happy Couple Really A Threesome”


“Lichens come in two basic flavors. One forms a thin, film-like layer on rocks and trees. The other kind is composed of “macrolichens” that grow big leafy, branching or vine-like structures. It’s the latter that seem to harbor the yeast.

The discovery started when Toby Spribille, a postdoctoral fellow in McCutcheon’s lab, was studying two lichen species collected from the mountains around the Missoula, Montana campus – Bryoria fremontii and B. tortuosa. The two species are distinguished by the presence of vulpinic acid in B. tortuosa, which also gives it a yellow colour. However, genetic tests showed that the known fungus and alga in both lichen species were identical.

But Spribille and McCutcheon found the genetic signature of a third species – a basidiomycete yeast, present in both of the lichen species but more abundant in the yellow version. They and their colleagues went on to test 56 different lichens from around the world, and found each had its own distinct variety of basidiomycete yeast.”

See “Lichen: Apparently Happy Couple Really A Threesome”http://www.science20.com/news_articles/lichen_apparently_happy_couple_really_a_threesome-177105

Bill (William) Johnston

Berkeley, CA

Anthony writes:



Until quite recently, Potter’s accomplishments and her experiments in natural science went unrecognised. Upon her death in 1943, Potter left hundreds of her mycological drawings and paintings to the Armitt Museum and Library in Ambleside, where she and her husband had been active members. Today, they are valued not only for their beauty and precision, but also for the assistance they provide modern mycologists in identifying a variety of fungi.

In 1997, the Linnean Society issued a posthumous apology to Potter, noting the sexism displayed in the handling of her research and its policy toward the contributions of women.

Christoph writes:

Dear TWiM overlords (in a gender neutral way)!

Michael had a very interesting interpretation of what coccolithophores were, when commenting on Kyle’s letter in TWiM 131!

He correctly identified two out of the three Greek/Latin words in there, but that steered him in a in funny direction, as he thought they were rock eating cocci and not Haptophyte algae.

Let’s see what I can remember from learning two dead languages in “Gymnasium” (German grammar school):

Cocco-litho-phore consits of “cocco-” from Greek kokkos = berry (score Michael) , “-litho-” from Greek lithos = rock (score Michael) and “-phore” from Latin ferre = to bear / to carry (this one Michael got confused with trophos = feed)

So Michael turned the “Cocci-Rock-Bearers” into “Cocci-Rock-Eaters”. Close, but no cigar!

Indeed the, the “Cocci-Rock-Bearers” got their name from carrying tiny scales of calcium-carbonate, the coccoliths (I presume this was close enough to be called “rock” since their fossilised remains makes those impressive cliffs of Dover in the UK). Their ability to turn carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate combined with their high abundance in temperate oceans makes them highly important to the global carbon cycle, but unfortunately also highly susceptible to ocean acidification. One of their prettiest members Emiliania huxleyi has even been featured on TWiM before (TWIM 34 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emiliania_huxleyi).

Hope I didn’t screw this up too badly and embarrass my former Latin/Greek teachers…

Keep up the great work, the TWiX empire is awesome!

Maybe you could feature more free living eukaryotic microbes (and their viruses)?! It seems like they get lost somewhere in the gap between TWiM and TWiP, but their rare appearance is always a delightful listen (like TWiM 94)!


PS: The weather in Vancouver BC is currently 21˚C, 73% humidity, 0% chance of precipitation and apparently pretty windy with 29km/h (although a quick look out the window can’t confirm this..)

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