The lichen in the image above presents an interesting visual doesn’t it? Rapid growth outwards with death spreading from the origination point in the center as well, following at a regular pace behind the spread of new growth. Probably one of the most fundamental patterns in the universe, especially with regards to “life.”
I put that last bit in quotes as the idea of there being a definitive line being life (animals, lichens, microbes, plants, etc) and “non-life” (rocks, stars, fire, dust, rivers, volcanos, etc) is something that I’m very skeptical of. Anywhere you place it, such a division would no doubt seem arbitrary from one perspective or another.
And how much are people actually aware of as far as “life” goes anyways? Probably only of that which functions in a similar way to us, and on a related scale. What would be the advantage, after all, of being aware of “life” that has next to no interaction with us, and/or functions largely in parallel with rather than directly? Or that encompasses us? Or that exists within us? Are people aware of the microbes that live in vast quantities in them? It’s hard to say. What about the microbes themselves, are they aware of us, as anything other than the “environment”?
(The image above, for those interested, is of a lichen growing on a rock on one of the islands in the immediate vicinity of Antarctica. The continent itself is still host to a large variety and quantity of lichen, notably, despite the last remnants of the earlier forests there being subsumed by glacial ice sheets some 3 to 4 million years ago. Presumably such forests — filled with southern beeches, tree ferns, sedges, cushion plants, pines, and with various types of Ranunculaceae, mosses, liverworts, and fungi — will make a return, in one form or other, as the ice-sheets there melt over the coming centuries and millennia.)
A couple of other Antarctic lichens, in order to give an idea of other possible growth patterns:
A final note, most of the lichen in these images are likely to be very old. Some of these types only grow a centimeter or so a millennia in the current Antarctic environment (and its islands). Though some may be growing somewhat faster.