1,100 Words

Cladonia grayi, or Gray's cup lichen. Photo by Thomas Barlow.

How Two Become One

Its mysterious gray-green goblets poking up through tufts of moss, this Gray’s cup lichen isn't one living thing but two -- a fungus and an alga -- working together. A team led by Duke biologist Daniele Armaleo teased these lichen symbionts apart and grew them separately in the lab to sequence their genomes. Then the researchers mixed the two back together and studied their early interactions. By looking for changes in gene activity when the partners are reunited, researchers hope to better understand how lichen partnerships going back hundreds of millions of years came to be. Photo by Thomas Barlow.