What's in a Lichen? How Scientists Got It Wrong for 150 Years

For 150 years, scientists believed lichen were defined by a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and algae. The fungus provides structure and support for the organism, while the algae produces food through photosynthesis. However, researchers recently discovered that certain lichen have an additional fungus in the mix. This threesome was revealed after a team set out to explain what made one type of lichen toxic versus another that was seemingly identical. Watch the collaborative process unfold in this short film by Andy Johnson, Talia Yuki Moore, Chris A. Johns, and Kate Furby.

The film was created with support from Day's Edge Productions at the International Wildlife Film Festival's Filmmaker Labs. Macro photography by Tim Wheeler.

Learn more about John McCutcheon's Lab at the University of Montana and follow the filmmakers on Twitter (@seakaterun, @taliamuaddib, @daysedge) and Instagram (@andyjohnsonphoto, @seakaterun).

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. To submit a film for consideration, please email sfs@natgeo.com. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.

What's in a Lichen? How Scientists Got It Wrong for 150 Years

For 150 years, scientists believed lichen were defined by a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and algae. The fungus provides structure and support for the organism, while the algae produces food through photosynthesis. However, researchers recently discovered that certain lichen have an additional fungus in the mix. This threesome was revealed after a team set out to explain what made one type of lichen toxic versus another that was seemingly identical. Watch the collaborative process unfold in this short film by Andy Johnson, Talia Yuki Moore, Chris A. Johns, and Kate Furby.

The film was created with support from Day's Edge Productions at the International Wildlife Film Festival's Filmmaker Labs. Macro photography by Tim Wheeler.

Learn more about John McCutcheon's Lab at the University of Montana and follow the filmmakers on Twitter (@seakaterun, @taliamuaddib, @daysedge) and Instagram (@andyjohnsonphoto, @seakaterun).

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. To submit a film for consideration, please email sfs@natgeo.com. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.