Xanthoria elegans has a broad ecological amplitude, world-wide distribution and includes morphological variants which differ markedly with respect to colour, form and frequency of apothecia. Distinctive thallus forms are associated with different habitats. Samples from two contrasting habitats were studied on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian High Arctic. Carotenoids, polyphenolic products and isoenzymes were examined to establish whether two thallus types were biochemically distinct. Pigments were comparable in both morphological variants, as were approximately half of the most frequently occurring enzyme forms. Enzymatic similarity between the two resembled that between conspecific populations of other lichens. On the basis of the chemical attributes investigated, the thallus forms did not warrant recognition as fundamentally distinct entities, but were merely variants of an ecologically versatile and extremely plastic species.
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