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Am J Bot. 1999 Apr;86(4):512-21.

Life history variation in gametophyte populations of the moss Ceratodon purpureus (Ditrichaceae).

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  • 1Department of Botany, Box 90338, Duke University, Durham, North Carolia 27708; and.


The life cycles of mosses and other bryophytes are unique among land plants in that the haploid gametophyte stage is free-living and the diploid sporophyte stage is ephemeral and completes its development attached to the maternal gametophyte. Despite predictions that populations of haploids might contain low levels of genetic variation, moss populations are characterized by substantial variation at isozyme loci. The extent to which this is indicative of ecologically important life history variation is, however, largely unknown. Gametophyte plants from two populations of the moss Ceratodon purpureus were grown from single-spore isolates in order to assess variation in growth rates, biomass accumulation, and reproductive output. The data were analyzed using a nested analysis of variance, with haploid sib families (gametophytes derived from the same sporophyte) nested within populations. High levels of life history variation were observed within both populations, and the populations differed significantly in both growth and reproductive characteristics. Overall gametophytic sex ratios did not depart significantly from 1:1 within either population, but there was significant variation among families in both populations for progeny sex ratio. Some families produced predominantly male gametophytes, while others yielded predominantly females. Because C. purpureus has a chromosomal mechanism of sex determination, these observations suggest differential (but unpredictable) germination of male and female spores. Life history observations showed that male and female gametophytes are dimorphic in size, maturation rates, and reproductive output.

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