Factors associated with degeneration of the thallus centre in foliose lichens

Richard A. Armstrong*, S.N. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Degeneration of the older parts of foliose lichen thalli often lead to the formation of a space or 'window' in the centre of the colonies. The percentage of thalli of different size which exhibited 'windows' was studied in twenty saxicolous lichen populations in south Gwynedd, Wales. The proportion of thalli with 'windows' increased with thallus size. The size class at which 50% and 100% of thalli exhibited 'windows' varied between populations. Differences between populations were not correlated with distance from the sea, aspect, slope or porosity of the substrate or the total number of lichen species present. However, a higher percentage of smaller thalli had 'windows' on rock surfaces with a greater lichen cover. There were no significant differences in the levels of Ca, Mg, Cu or Zn in large (>4 cm) and small (<2 cm) Parmelia conspersa (Ehrh. ex Ach.) Ach. thalli or in the centres and marginal lobes of these thalli. The concentration of ribitol, arabitol and mannitol was significantly reduced in the centre of large thalli compared with the margin of large thalli and the centre of small thalli. However, carbohydrate levels were similar in the centre of large thalli and the margin of small thalli. The data suggest that loss of the thallus centre is a degenerative process related to thallus size. In the field, the formation of 'windows' may be related to the intensity of competition on a substrate. Central degeneration was not associated with a deficiency or an accumulation of Ca, Mg, Cu and Zn in the thallus centre. However, degeneration may be associated with a reduction in carbohydrates in the centre compared with the marginal lobes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1997


  • lichen
  • thallus degeneration
  • inorganic ions
  • carbohydrate
  • windows


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