Lobe growth variation and the maintenance of symmetry in foliose lichen thalli

Richard A. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study was to determine how thallus symmetry could be maintained in foliose lichens when variation in the growth of individual lobes may be high. Hence, the radial growth of a sample of lobes was studied monthly, over 22 months, in 7 thalli of Parmelia conspersa (Ehrh. Ex Ach.) Ach. And 5 thalli of P. glabratula ssp fuliginosa (fr. ex Duby) Laund. The degree of variation in the total radial growth of different lobes within a thallus over 22 months varied between thalli. Individual lobes showed a fluctuating pattern of radial growth from month to month with alternating periods of fast and slow growth. Monthly variations in radial growth of different lobes were synchronized in some but not in all thalli. Few significant correlations were found between the radial growth of individual lobes and total monthly rainfall or shortwave radiation. The levels of ribitol, arabitol and mannitol were measured in individual lobes. All three polyols varied significantly between lobes within a thallus suggesting that variations in algal phostosynthesis and in the partitioning of fungal polyols may contribute to lobe growth variation. The effect on thallus symmetry of lobes which grew radially either consistently faster or slower than average was studied. Slow growing lobes were overgrown, and gaps in the perimeter were eliminated by the growth of neighbouring lobes, in approximately 7 to 9 months. However, a rapidly growing lobe, with its neighbours removed on either side, continued to grow radially at the same rate as rapidly growing control lobes. The results suggested that lobe growth variation results from a combination of factors which may include the origin of the lobes, lobe morphology and the patterns of algal cell division and hyphal elongation in different lobes. No convincing evidence was found to suggest that exchange of carbohydrate occurred between lobes which would tend to equalize their radial growth. Hence, the fluctuating pattern of lobe growth observed may be sufficient to maintain a degree of symmetry in most thalli. In addition, slow growing lobes would tend to be overgrown by faster growing neighbours thus preventing the formation of indentations in the thallus perimeter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-158
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1992


  • parmelia conspersa
  • parmelia glabratula ssp. fuliginosa
  • lobe growth variation
  • thallus symmetry


Dive into the research topics of 'Lobe growth variation and the maintenance of symmetry in foliose lichen thalli'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this