MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Why is the algal part of lichen considered alive, while mitochondria isn't?

Date: Mon Sep 6 14:17:40 2004
Posted By: Chris Reigstad, Grad student, Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Washington University in St. Louis
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 1094237264.Gb

Hi Roopa,

 Thanks for your question. The difference between the two situations you 
described it that the lichen represents a form of symbiosis called 
mutualism where both organisms benefit from the interaction. With respect 
to the algae you studied, this association represents an *obligate* 
mutualistic relationship, since the algae cannot reproduce without the 
interaction. Mitochondria actually form part of individual cells; they're 
not a species that could on its own form a symbiosis with another 
species. The cell has been designated 'the fundamental unit of life,' so 
a part of the cellular machinery wouldn't generally be considered 'alive'.

Hope this helps,
Chris Reigstad

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