Species Profile

Mountain Crab-eye

Scientific Name: Acroscyphus sphaerophoroides
Taxonomy Group: Lichens
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2016
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.


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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Mountain Crab-eye

Description

Mountain Crab-eye is a medium-sized, yellowish to pale grey cushion-forming lichen. The lichen consists of dense tufts of cylindrical, stout, coral-like erect to semi-erect branches. The interior of the lichen is yellow to bright orange and solid. Fertile branches have immersed black fruiting bodies, giving the branches the appearance of stalked crab eyes. Non-fertile branches are smaller in diameter and height. The passively dispersed spores are dark brown, peanut-shell shaped, unornamented, and not well adapted for wind dispersal. The photosynthetic partner is believed to be the green alga, Trebouxia, though there is uncertainty. Mountain Crab-eye has a complex secondary chemistry and contains substances not found in other genera of pin lichens (Family Caliciaceae). Mountain Crab-eye is the only species of the genus Acroscyphus. It is noteworthy that the Mountain Crab-eye in Canada occupies peatland habitats that are very different from the habitats of Mountain Crab-eye elsewhere in the world. There could be genetic or chemical differences between the Canadian subpopulations and other subpopulations. (Updated 2017/01/23)

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Distribution and Population

Mountain Crab-eye has a widely disjunct global distribution. It is reported from high-altitude (> 3000 m), exposed alpine environments of China, Tibet, India, Bhutan, Japan, South Africa, Peru, Patagonia, and Mexico. The last is not confirmed. In Canada and USA, it is found at lower elevations: in Alaska (948 m), Washington (1300 m) and British Columbia (420 to 1000 m). There are currently eight known occurrences in Canada, all within the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, ranging from Kingcome River in the south, to Kitsault in the north. Despite a widespread distribution, there are few national and global occurrences. (Updated 2017/01/23)

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Habitat

In Canada, Mountain Crab-eye is almost exclusively found on trees within the coastal mountains, in a very restricted climatic zone which lies between the hypermaritime conditions found on the outer coast, such as Haida Gwaii and around Prince Rupert, and the continental climate of the interior of the province. This zone appears to be neither too wet or too dry and hence suitable for Mountain Crab-eye, which colonizes the stems and branches of standing snags or the dead, spiked tops of live trees. The trees may be Mountain Hemlock, Yellow-cedar or Sitka Spruce. This lichen is not found in the hypermaritime climates of the outer coast or in the continental climates of the interior of British Columbia. Six of the eight occurrences in Canada are located in sparsely treed peatlands—fens or bog complexes. The seventh occurrence is located in a Mountain Hemlock subalpine forest and the last occurrence is in an open, wet subalpine parkland. Though alpine rocks are common substrata for Mountain Crab-eye in other regions of the world, only two colonies have been recorded on rock in Canada. (Updated 2017/01/23)

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Biology

Mountain Crab-eye commonly produces black fruiting bodies. Spores are smooth (lacking ornamentation), large, and not actively ejected into the air like most lichen spores and so are not dispersed effectively by wind, but are probably spread by animals or carried on bird’s feet. Under suitable conditions, spores germinate and produce fungal strands, or hyphae. In order for a new lichen to regenerate, the fungal strands must encounter a compatible algal partner. Mountain Crab-eye does not reproduce asexually via vegetative propagules containing both fungal and algal partners, nor does it appear to reproduce by fragmentation. However, Mountain Crab-eye does produce spores called conidia, in flask-shaped structures called pycnidia, but it is uncertain if these are a means of asexual reproduction or are involved in fruiting body formation. Longevity, generation time and many other biological parameters of Mountain Crab-eye are currently unknown. (Updated 2017/01/23)

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Threats

Most of Canada’s Mountain Crab-eye (100 colonies of the estimated 250 colonies) are found at one single site that faces multiple current and potential threats which make it especially prone to the effects of human activities or stochastic events within a very short time period. In Canada, Mountain Crab-eye exhibits narrow habitat specificity, small population, and poor dispersal capabilities, which make it particularly vulnerable to climate change as it may not be able to respond quickly to climate-related habitat changes or shifts in ecosystems. Warmer temperatures and higher precipitation could lead to shifts in the assemblages of non-vascular species that occupy snags and spike-tops. Mountain Crab-eye might be outcompeted by species well-adapted to new or changing climate regimes. The functioning and integrity of the wetland systems may be altered or degraded due to severe weather events caused by climate change. Mountain Crab-eye is also threatened by current and potential industrial development projects such as road construction, logging, gas pipeline corridors, mining (expansion of a molybdenum mine), dams and a run-of-the-river hydroelectric project, all of which may cause habitat loss and degradation, and may indirectly cause alterations to the hydrological regime and microclimate where the species grows. (Updated 2017/01/23)

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Protection

Federal Protection

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

4 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Mountain Crab-eye Acroscyphus sphaerophoroides in Canada (2016)

    Mountain Crab-eye is a medium-sized, yellowish to pale grey cushion-forming lichen. The lichen consists of dense tufts of cylindrical, stout, coral-like erect to semi-erect branches. The interior of the lichen is yellow to bright orange and solid. Fertile branches have immersed black fruiting bodies, giving the branches the appearance of stalked crab eyes. Non-fertile branches are smaller in diameter and height. The passively dispersed spores are dark brown, peanut-shell shaped, unornamented, and not well adapted for wind dispersal. The photosynthetic partner is believed to be the green alga, Trebouxia, though there is uncertainty. Mountain Crab-eye has a complex secondary chemistry and contains substances not found in other genera of pin lichens (Family Caliciaceae).

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Mountain Crab-eye (2017)

    This charismatic lichen forms pale gray to yellow gray coral-like cushions. It is globally rare and there are only eight known occurrences in Canada. All are within British Columbia in a very restricted climatic zone, which lies between the hyper-maritime conditions found on the outer coast and the continental climate of the interior. There is a low IAO of 32 km2 and the total estimated population for this lichen is less than 250 colonies. However, this lichen occurs in remote, inaccessible sites within the rugged Coast Mountains, and additional new occurrences are likely to be discovered. In Canada, it is found primarily on dead Mountain Hemlock snags in patterned fen or bog complexes. Development pressures (roads, pipeline, hydroelectricity, mining and forestry) and climate change threaten hydrological regime and microclimatic conditions required by this species at many of the known sites.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2015-2016 (2016)

    Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 25 wildlife species; of these, the majority (68%) were re-assessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 45 species assessed, seven were assigned a status of Not at Risk (two re-assessments and five new assessments). To date, and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 724 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 320 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 209 Special Concern, and 23 Extirpated (i.e., no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 15 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct, 54 wildlife species have been designated as Data Deficient, and 177 have been assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species - January 2017 (2017)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. In 2016, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, the Governor in Council approved listing proposals for 44 wildlife species. It is proposed that 23 species be added to Schedule 1, 18 be reclassified or have a change made to how they are defined (two wildlife species are being split into four), one species  be removed from Schedule 1, and another two species not be added. Listing proposals were published in Canada Gazette, part I for a 30-day public comment period and final listing decisions for all 44 species are expected in the first half of 2017.Please submit your comments byMay 11, 2017, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 11, 2017, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website The COSEWIC Summaries of Terrestrial Species Eligible for Addition or Reclassification on Schedule 1 - January 2017