DEDICATED TO LICHENS
I was born and grow up in the Arctic, in Chukotka. In my motherland lichens and mosses are the main and sometimes the only representatives of local endemics. And these particular Cladonia Stellaris lichens are the main food of reindeer that my native people Chukchi breed. Reindeer are everything - food, clothes, and shelter - to the Chukcha people. So I like to joke: I am Chukcha! What else can I speak about, then the lichens? Especially about Cladonia Stellaris Lichens! :)))
"Alien" is a collection of macro photos of Cladonia Stellaris lichens, captured in the forest of Huskvarna, Sweden, 2021. Lichens, our otherworldly-looking neighbors on the planet Earth, often stayed overlooked by the people. Meanwhile, they are wonderful! Their patterns and otherworldly look, their impressive survival abilities, and the intriguing story of their appearance make lichens worth to be learned! Gorgeous and mystical lichens - who are they? I am trying to answer this question in this "Alien" collection, speaking about specific qualities of lichens and facts about them through photography. WHAT ARE LICHENS? Lichens are neither plant nor animal, they are organisms unlike any other on Earth. The lichen is an organism created by the symbiosis of the algae cells and the fungus. The algae produce food through photosynthesis, and the fungus protects the algae and provides nutrients and water for their combined survival. The collaboration is so good, that allows lichens to survive where many other organisms cannot, even in the open space! ENDURE THE OPEN SPACE In an experiment led by Leopoldo Sancho from the Complutense University of Madrid, two species of lichen were sealed in a capsule and launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket on 31 May 2005. Once in Earth orbit, the lid of the capsule opened and the samples were exposed to the space environment for nearly 15 days before the lid was resealed and the capsule returned to Earth. Lichens survived! This experiment adds weight to the theory of panspermia – that life could somehow be transported between planets, perhaps by hitching a ride on an asteroid. It also indicates that organisms similar to lichens might be able to survive on the surface of Mars – at least during the planet’s summer. ON THE BORDER WITH THE DREAMS Being caught by the otherworldly and charming look of lichens, I was often dreaming, that they came to us from another planet! And suddenly these dreamy ideas about lichens as aliens, have a chance to come true! Isn't it a moment when the border between the dream and reality is varnishing? INTRIGUING LICHENS Lichens don't have roots, they get their nutrition from the air. Such ability let them settle even on the bare rocks of the Arctic, using rocks for the fixation. In the course of their life, lichens corrode the colonized substance and accumulate minerals and organic, creating the first soil for such plants as mosses and grasses. Such a sequence of life events made lichens have been supposed to be one of the first eukaryotes which step out from the water to the land and created more hospitable settings for vascular plants. For more than a century scientists had a such point of view on the evolutional process. But nowadays, another point of view starts to appear. In the publications, dating from 2019 is written that the last research has shown that lichens are younger and evolved with or after vascular plants. Here I like to remember about their space journey and panspermia! Who knows… ALIEN But even if lichens are not the first who came out from the water to the land, still these little oddly species are often the first who settle on a bare stone to prepare the space for the next species. From this side, they are still Aliens - the pioneers on new land! They are worth to be seen!