Stratified response to environmental stress in a polar lichen characterized with FT-Raman microscopic analysis
The role of Antarctic epilithic lichens in the primary colonization of rocks and in the formation of soils is receiving attention because of the production of the stress-protective biochemicals needed to combat radiation, desiccation and extremes of temperature. Raman microscopy has been used here to study the encrustations produced at the interface between the rock substratum and Buellia spp. lichen thalli; in addition to whewellite. calcium oxalate monohydrate, the presence of weddellite, the metastable dihydrate form, was confirmed in the encrustations. An unusual pigmentation of the rock surface found on detachment of the lichen growths is identified as P-carotene from its characteristic Raman bands at 1525. 1191, 1157 and 1003 cm(-1); normally, beta-carotene, which has been identified as a UV-radiation protectant, is found at the exposed upper surface of the biological organism. The interface between the detached lichen thalli and the rock also contains whewellite as the sole biomineralization product-which suggests a. possible strategy for the formulation of weddelite in the growing Buellia spp. colony as an anti-desiccant.