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Lichen biogeography - Australia

Australia and elsewhere

Many lichens found in Australia are also found in other parts of the world and this page will give a number of examples. The DISTRIBUTION PATTERNS page gave brief descriptions of various distribution patterns and on this page you'll find more about distributions involving Australia. There is a separate page about lichens ENDEMIC TO AUSTRALIA. The distributional information will mostly be given within brackets, first the known distribution within Australia and, after a dash, where else in the world the species has been found, but not in as fine detail. For the purpose of this page Australia is taken to be Tasmania and the mainland states and territories. Politically various more distant islands (such as Lord Howe, Macquarie and Norfolk) are part of Australia but botanically they are distinct and for biogeographic purposes are best treated as outside Australia. After dealing with various types of distribution patterns the page will finish with a discussion of the species Pseudocyphellaria gilva.


I won't crowd this page with a specific reference for each distribution example. The information has come mostly from the relevant generic treatments of the lichen volumes in the Flora of Australia series, the Flora of New Zealand, Lichens or the Lichen Flora of the Greater Sonoran Desert. You can find the full bibliographic details of these volumes on the Further reading and weblinks page. The occasional published sources of extra information will appear in additional reference buttons. In a very few cases I have included additional, unpublished distributional information gleaned from reliably identified Australian specimens in the Australian National Herbarium in Canberra.

Austroparmelina pseudorelicina

Australia and New Zealand

There are many species that are confined largely to Australia and New Zealand, suggesting an Australasian origin. Here are some examples of species thus far found in just Australia and New Zealand (with the Australian distributions given in brackets): Chapsa lamellifera (Tasmania), Loxospora solenospora (Tasmania, Victoria), Austroparmelina pseudorelicina (all states and the Australian Capital Territory), Peltigera tereziana (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria), Ramboldia stuartii (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia), Xanthoparmelia semiviridis (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia). Sometimes you will find an 'Australia-New Zealand' species slightly further afield as well and a few examples are: Icmadophila splachnirima (Tasmania, Victoria - New Zealand, Auckland Island, Campbell Island, Chatham Island), Porina kantvilasii (Western Australia, Tasmania - New Zealand, Campbell Island), Pseudocyphellaria billardierei (New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria - New Zealand, Auckland Island, Campbell Island) and Pseudocyphellaria haywardiorum (New South Wales, Queensland - Norfolk Island, New Zealand).

Metus conglomeratus and Neophylllis melacarpa have already been mentioned on the BIOGEOGRAPHY AT DIFFERENT LEVELS page as examples of Australia-New Zealand species but it is worth giving some more information about the former. The first description of the species Metus conglomeratus was published in 1889 by the Reverend Francis Wilson, who gave it the name Pilophoron conglomeratum. The description was based on material collected in southern Victoria, yet the species appears to be commoner in Tasmania and New Zealand. There are many plant or cryptogam species that are found in New Zealand and Tasmania (and perhaps southern Victoria as well) and for many years Metus conglomeratus appeared to be a good example of such a species but in 1997 (based on specimens that had been collected in 1990) it was reported from Lamington National Park in south-east Queensland. When fertile the species is quite distinctive, with the apothecia atop a typically green-granular podetium, but the thallus is rather indistinct and granular, which means that sterile specimens could be overlooked easily - so the species may be more widely distributed in Australia.

Australia's neighbourhood

A number of species found in Australia are also found in the Australian neighbourhood, perhaps north to Papua New Guinea and even the nearer parts of Asia or east into the Pacific - though not necessarily always in New Zealand. Examples of these are: Baeomyces heteromorphus (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria - New Zealand, Papua New Guinea), Bundophoron coomerense (New South Wales, Queensland - Papua New Guinea), Cryptothecia scripta (New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland - Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea), Hypotrachyna banguionensis (Queensland - Philippines), Melanophloea pacifica (Queensland - Solomon Islands), Myeloconis erumpens (Queensland - New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand), Parmotrema acrotrychum (Queensland - Papua New Guinea), Pertusaria montpittensis (Queensland - Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Tonga), Porina exocha (Queensland- Norfolk Island, New Zealand, Rarotonga), Porina aluniticola (New South Wales - Lord Howe Island), Pseudocyphellaria multifida (New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria - New Zealand, Malesia), Pseudocyphellaria semilanata (northeast Queensland - from Indonesia to Samoa and Bonin Island), Pseudocyphellaria stenophylla (north-east Queensland - New Caledonia), Sarrameana albidoplumbea (Tasmania, Victoria - New Zealand, New Caledonia), Sticta hypopsiloides (Queensland - New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Java), Usnea bismolliuscula (New South Wales, Queensland - Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Japan).

The southern hemisphere

There is a significant number of species that are distributed over large parts of the Southern Hemisphere. Some of these show an Australasian-South American distribution, others an Australasian-southern African distribution while a third group is found in Australasia and both South America and Africa south of the Sahara.

Lecanora epibryon subspecies broccha is found on decaying grass bases in the montane or cold regions of the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, New Guinea, New Zealand, southern South America and various sub-Antarctic islands. Other examples of species with an Australasian-South American distribution are: Brigantiaea phaeomma (Queensland - New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Juan Fernandez Islands), Nephroma cellulosum (New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria - New Zealand, South America, Juan Fernandez Islands), Neuropogon acromelanus (Tasmania, Victoria - New Zealand, South America, Antarctic Peninsula), Pseudocyphellaria glabra (New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria - Lord Howe Island, Macquarie Island, New Zealand and its subantarctic islands, South America), Tephromela alectoronica (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia - South America), Tephromela austrolitoralis (New South Wales, Queensland - South America), Usnea inermis (all states and the Australian Capital Territory - New Zealand, Chile).

Placopsis perrugosa

Leioderma pycnophorum and Placopsis perrugosa are examples of Australasian-South American species that extend a little further. Leioderma pycnophorum is known from New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, New Zealand, Chile, Juan Fernandez Islands and Tristan da Cunha, the last much closer to South Africa than South America. Placopsis perrugosa is known from Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Galapagos Islands, southern South America, Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha.

Sometimes (Tephromela alectoronica and Usnea inermis, for example) an Australian-South American species has been found in both eastern and Western Australia but mostly such species are unknown from Western Australia. In some instances this would undoubtedly reflect the true distribution but in others it would reflect the fact that more effort has gone into the study of eastern Australian than Western Australian lichens. The introductory LICHENS IN AUSTRALIA page showed that even today fieldwork in Western Australia can reveal species there that have long been known from eastern Australia. Occasionally you can come across an example such as Diploschistes conceptionis, an Australian-South American species with a difference, since it is known from Western Australia, Chile and Uruguay. A study of the Australian species of Diploschistes that was published in 2009 and involved the examination of numerous Australian collections of the genus found no examples of Diploschistes conceptionis from outside Western Australia. That doesn't prove that the species does not exist in eastern Australia but for the moment it remains an example of a more unusual Australian-South American distribution pattern.

Diploschistes thunbergianus occurs in the semi-arid areas of Australia and also in New Zealand and southern Africa. Other examples of species found in Australia and southern Africa are: Lecanora sphaerospora (New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, - South Africa), Porina corrugata (South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia - New Zealand, South Africa), Xanthoparmelia amplexula (all states and territories - Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, New Zealand and South Africa). The genus Xanthoparmelia, though cosmopolitan, has its greatest diversity in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia and southern Africa and there is a separate XANTHOPARMELIA page which includes some more examples of biogeographic patterns in the genus.

The FUSCOPANNARIA SUBIMMIXTA STORY gives an account of a species found in Australia, southern Africa and South America. Here are some more examples of similar distributions: Pertusaria melanospora (New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria - New Zealand, Peru, South Africa), Phyllopsora swinscowii (Queensland - South America, east Africa, Mauritius), Sticta sublimbata (Tasmania - New Zealand, southern and eastern Africa, South America).

As you've seen above, some of the Southern Hemisphere species have distributions which extend far enough south to include one or more of the sub-Antarctic islands (or even part of mainland Antarctica). There are also species of the far south, found predominantly on the sub-Antarctic islands (and perhaps also on the Antarctic mainland or in the far south of South America) but with distributions sometimes extending far enough north to touch the southern extremities of Australasia. An example of such a species is Fuscidea asbolodes. The first description of this species was published in 1876, based on specimens collected on Kerguelen Island. It is found on other sub-Antarctic islands (including Prince Edward, Heard, Macquarie, Auckland) as well as in Tasmania and the South Island of New Zealand.

Australia and the tropics

There are numerous lichens found in the tropics (or subtropics) but rarely further north or south. A number of species found in tropical Australia are found throughout much of the world's tropics and these are the pantropical species. Others (the paleotropical species) are found in tropical Australia and through large parts of the non-American tropics. There are also species found in tropical Australia and at most a few scattered spots elsewhere in the tropics, but such disjunctive species are dealt with in the following section.

Examples of pantropical (to subtropical) species that are found in northern Australia include Dirinaria picta , Haematomma africanum , Pyxine cocoes and Strigula subtilissima . Sometimes an otherwise tropical to subtropical species may extend into temperate areas if conditions are mild. For example, in Australia Dirinaria picta can be found as far south as the southernmost coast of New South Wales. Examples of species found in Australia and the paleotropics are: Pertusaria cicatricosa (Queensland - Socotra, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji), Phyllopsora africana (Queensland - east Africa, Mascarene Islands), Pseudocyphellaria beccarii (New South Wales, Queensland - Madagascar to Fiji and Samoa), Pseudocyphellaria desfontainii (New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria - Mauritius and Madagascar, Indian Ocean islands, parts of Asia and into the Pacific).

Widespread - cosmopolitan to disjunctive

A number of lichens found in Australia have very widespread distributions, being cosmopolitan, or virtually so, and found in a variety of places on each continent. One example is Rhizocarpon geographicum , found on all continents including Antarctica, and fairly common in at least both the south-east and south-west of Australia. Another example is Protoparmelia badia which is known from the alpine areas of south-east Australia and also in Antarctica and montane areas in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Asia, Europe and North and South America. At the other extreme are puzzling species known from just a few widely separated areas and an example of this is Bulbothrix bicornuta, which is known from the mangroves in one location in north Queensland and from one location in Brazil. Though possible, it seems exceedingly unlikely that the species would occur at just these two sites. Given the two tropical locations for this species and that the genus is largely a tropical one it seems plausible to assume that Bulbothrix bicornuta occurs elsewhere in the tropics but, for the moment, there's no evidence as to where else.

In between the cosmopolitan and the puzzlingly rare are a great variety of distribution patterns of varying degrees of patchiness to strongly disjunct, including bipolar species (namely those found towards the northern half of the Northern Hemisphere and the southern half of the Southern Hemisphere and at most rarely in tropical areas). The rest of this section is devoted to a number of examples, occasionally with some comments.

Lecanora pseudistera

Catapyrenium cinereum is a bipolar species known from the Mt. Kosciusko area of New South Wales, New Zealand, northern Eurasia, North America, Turkey, Pakistan, Nepal, Mongolia, southern South America and the South Shetland Islands. Chrysothrix xanthina is widespread in Australia in a great variety of habitats from urban parks and gardens to rainforests. Outside Australia the species is known from New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Asia, Africa, Madagascar, Macaronesia and North and South America. By contrast Chrysothrix occidentalis has been found in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Nepal. The first description of this species was published in 2007, based on a specimen collected in Western Australia. Given that this species was described rather recently and the fact that, superficially, the various Chrysothrix species look similar, it is possible that there are specimens of Chrysothrix occidentalis, from other parts of the world, already sitting in herbaria but either labelled only as Chrysothrix or perhaps mis-identified. For example the name Chrysothrix candelaris had been freely applied to specimens from many parts of the world, including Australia, but more detailed examination has shown that in many cases (especially in Australia) specimens identified as Chrysothrix candelaris have not warranted that name. Within AustraliaHerpothallon confluenticum has been found only in Queensland and outside Australia from these disparate areas: Nepal, Thailand and Venezuela. Heteroplacidium contumescens has been found once in South Australia and is otherwise known from the Mediterranean area (including Israel), northern Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Mongolia. Lecanora pseudistera (above) occurs in all Australian states, especially in semi-arid areas, as well as New Zealand, Oceania, Asia, southern Africa, Europe and the Americas while Lecanora rupicola is a bipolar species, found in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, New Zealand, Europe and North America. Pertusaria porinella is known from New South Wales, Queensland and Mexico and the first published description, in 1863, was based on material collected in Mexico. Pseudocyphellaria crocata, the most widespread species of the genus, is found in all Australian states as well as the Australian Capital Territory, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Réunion, South Africa, St. Helena, Macaronesia, Europe, the Americas from South to North, Galapagos Islands, Juan Fernandez Islands, Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji and Tahiti. Here are some other examples of widespread Pseudocyphellarias: Pseudocyphellaria argyracea has been found in Queensland, Tasmania, from east Africa to India and Japan, New Zealand, various Pacific islands and southern South America while Pseudocyphellaria dozyana, rare in eastern Queensland, is also known from the paleotropics and Ecuador and Pseudocyphellaria neglecta from western and eastern Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and southern South America. Sticta limbata occurs in south-east Australia, New Zealand, east Africa, Europe and North and South America. Strigula phaea is known from Tasmania, Queensland, New Zealand, the neotropics, southern and western Europe, Macaronesia and China. Umbilicaria decussata is found in southeast Australia, New Zealand, northern Asia, Europe, North and South America and Antarctica. Thus far Usnea elata is known only from Queensland and central Africa.

Pseudocyphellaria gilva

Pseudocyphellaria is a cosmopolitan genus (with about 115 species known) that has its greatest diversity in the Southern Hemisphere. A search through various online regional lichen checklists showed that no more than about 30 species appear to be known from the Northern Hemisphere. On the other hand 54 species are known from South America, 48 from New Zealand, 39 from Australia and 29 from the paleotropics. The thalli are foliose and very easily noticed, reaching diameters of 30 centimetres or more in some species and at least 10 in many more. The genus is found especially in humid, cool-temperate habitats and the distributions and habitat preferences (such as being frequently found in Nothofagus forests) suggest a Gondwanan origin. Consistent with that hypothesis is the fact that a number of Pseudocyphellaria species found in south-east Australia are also found in New Zealand or South America or have affinities with species in those areas.

In the earlier parts of this page you will have seen the varied distribution patterns of some of the species of the genus found within and outside Australia and there are also Pseudocyphellaria species endemic to Australia. The rest of this page will be devoted to a discussion of one species: Pseudocyphellaria gilva. The red and blue dots on the accompanying map show the distribution of the genus in Australia, with the blue dots showing the known Australian locations of Pseudocyphellaria gilva. Apart from eastern Australia this species is found in South Africa, Mauritius, South-east Asia, Papua New Guinea, southern South America, Juan Fernandez Islands and the Falkland Islands. Chemical analysis of specimens collected from various areas reveals there to be at least five chemical groups (or chemotypes) within the species, and these have been found in the following areas:

chemotype 1 : Australia ( New South Wales), Juan Fernandez, Falkland Islands, Papua New Guinea, South Africa

chemotype 2 : Australia ( Tasmania)

chemotype 3 : Falkland Islands, Papua New Guinea

chemotype 4 : Malaysia (Sabah), Papua New Guinea

chemotype 5 : Australia ( Queensland and New South Wales)

Chemotype 5 is the most distinctive but whether it, or any other chemotype, warrants recognition as a distinct species is debatable and a resolution of this issue would require further investigation, especially DNA analysis of the different chemotypes. Moreover there is also the question as to whether analysis of more specimens would reveal further chemotypes or additional locations for any of the currently known chemotypes. Nevertheless the chemical analysis does show that there is some complexity within this species and further research could lead to taxonomic changes with consequential effects on any discussion about the biogeography of the genus.


Lichen biogeography pages on this website

    Distribution patterns
    Taxonomic levels
    Lichens in Australia
        Endemic to Australia
    Australia and elsewhere
    Fuscopannaria distribution