Lichens, as typical obligate associations between lichenized fungi and their photosynthetic partners, are dominant in Antarctica. Three Antarctic lichens, Ochrolechia frigida , Umbilicaria antarctica , and Usnea aurantiaco−atra with different growth forms, were sampled nearby the Great Wall Station, King George Island. Molecular data revealed that the photosynthetic algae in these three lichens were Trebouxia jamesii . The net photo − synthesis (Pn) of three individuals from these species, together with environmental factors such as light and temperature, were recorded by CO 2 gas exchange measurements using a CI−340 portable photosynthetic system in situ . Differences between T(leaf) (the temperature of the thalli) and T(air) (the air temperature) for these lichens were not consistent, which reflected that environment and the growth form of thalli could affect T(leaf) significantly. Strong irradiation was expected to have adverse effects on Pn of Ochrolechia frigida and Umbilicaria antarctica whose thalli spread flat; but this photoinhibition had little effect on Usnea aurantiaco−atra with exuberant tufted thallus. These results indicated that photo − synthetic activity in lichens was affected by the growth forms of thalli besides microhabitat factors. One species of lichenized alga could exhibit diversified types of photosynthetic behavior when it was associated with various lichenized fungi in different microhabitats. It will be helpful for understanding how lichens are able to adapt to and colonize in extreme environments.
Usnea aurantiaco-atra is the dominant flora around King George Island, Antarctica, whose specimens exhibited various phenotypes, even for those with the same ITS sequences in both mycobiont and photobiont. A comprehensive analysis of morphological traits of U. aurantiaco-atra including the reproductive structures, growth forms and ornamentation, cross section of the branches, and the substratum was carried out. Four arbitrary groups were identified based on their reproductive characters, but these groups cannot be distinguished from molecular phylogenetic trees based on fungal or algal ITS sequences. Further, the complicated morphological diversity of the thalli with the same ITS haplotypes in both mycobiont and photobiont suggest that some other factors in addition to the symbionts could influence the morphology of lichens. This implies that lichen is indeed a complex-mini-ecosystem rather than a dual symbiotic association of fungus and alga. Also, a lichenous fungi Phacopsis sp. was identified based on its anatomical characters and ITS sequence, which was also responsible for the black burls-like structures on U. aurantiaco-atra.