The Bottleneck Years by H. E. Taylor, Chapter 47

The Bottleneck Years

by H.E. Taylor

Chapter 46 Table of Contents Chapter 48

Chapter 47

Symbiosis, September 27, 2056

The next time I got into the lab, I started pulling apart lichen just to get a feel for the territory. Lichen is a symbiosis of an algae and a fungus. The fungus in the north is usually an ascomycetes. The algal component is usually a simple green algae, although occasionally a blue-green algae is found. A lot of work had been done on green algae earlier in the century while investigating their suitability for biofuel. It was the fungal component, the ascomycetes, which had not been extensively explored.

I put the fungus through a microarray cascade and soon had the complete genome, epigenome and proteome. The software mapped the maximum probabilty pathways with only a few marked uncertain. The real trick would be figuring out how it worked with the algae.

The mystery of symbiosis lay at the centre of it. These two species did a dance around each other, helping each other grow in the process. What were the chemical signals and constituents of that relation? And how could I enhance that?

I puzzled over this conundrum for several weeks before it occured to me that for my purposes, the goal was only to enhance photosynthesis. The mystery of symbiosis could wait. I was back on solid ground. To my pleasant surprise the fungal component accepted a wide range of manipulation in the algae component, so I could modify almost at will.

By the end of the month I had my enhanced lichen. It grew aggressively and captured almost three times as much carbon as the original. I didn’t have to change the ascomycetes at all. The only thing odd about it was the colour. The algae was dark, almost black; the lichen blue-grey.

I added an entry to the UNGETF database describing the work. Then I fired off a note to Peter Barnes to thank him for the suggestion. Rhamaposa marked the lichen to be fast tracked.

Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor

For further information see:

A Gentle Introduction.

Last modified July 2, 2013

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