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Museums house all sorts of interesting specimens in their collections.
You might think first of an unusual bird, or a remarkable mammal.
But would you think of a rusty car?
This driver’s-side door from a 1984 Ford Bronco was collected by Field Museum
scientists and their collaborators who noticed it parked on the side of the road
during a field expedition in Puerto Rico.
What caught their attention was the car’s abundance of lichens: plant-like organisms
that are comprised of a symbiotic relationship between an algae, and a fungus.
The scientists had spent some time marveling at the lichen diversity that covered the decommissioned
automobile; and after some serious consideration for how they’d manage to transport the entire
vehicle back to the Field Museum in Chicago, they eventually settled on taking the door-
paying $20 for the accession, to the car’s very confused but accommodating owner.
So far, the scientists have identified more than 50 different species of lichen growing
on it-- many of which fluoresce under UV light, and one of which may be a brand new species to science.
That just goes to show you that scientific discoveries can be found in the most unremarkable
of places.