Lichen symbioses develop long-living thallus structures even in the harshest environments on Earth. These structures are also habitats for many other microscopic organisms, including other fungi, which vary in their specificity and interaction with the whole symbiotic system. This contribution reviews the recent progress regarding the understanding of the lichen-inhabiting fungi that are achieved by multiphasic approaches (culturing, microscopy, and sequencing). The lichen mycobiome comprises a more or less specific pool of species that can develop symptoms on their hosts, a generalist environmental pool, and a pool of transient species. Typically, the fungal classes Dothideomycetes, Eurotiomycetes, Leotiomycetes, Sordariomycetes, and Tremellomycetes predominate the associated fungal communities. While symptomatic lichenicolous fungi belong to lichen-forming lineages, many of the other fungi that are found have close relatives that are known from different ecological niches, including both plant and animal pathogens, and rock colonizers. A significant fraction of yet unnamed melanized (‘black’) fungi belong to the classes Chaethothyriomycetes and Dothideomycetes. These lineages tolerate the stressful conditions and harsh environments that affect their hosts, and therefore are interpreted as extremotolerant fungi. Some of these taxa can also form lichen-like associations with the algae of the lichen system when they are enforced to symbiosis by co-culturing assays.
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