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Ann Bot. 2011 May;107(6):897-907. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcr027. Epub 2011 Feb 13.

Does the silver moss Bryum argenteum exhibit sex-specific patterns in vegetative growth rate, asexual fitness or prezygotic reproductive investment?

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School of Life Sciences, University of Nevada, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89154-4004, USA.



Expected life history trade-offs associated with sex differences in reproductive investment are often undetected in seed plants, with the difficulty arising from logistical issues of conducting controlled experiments. By controlling genotype, age and resource status of individuals, a bryophyte was assessed for sex-specific and location-specific patterns of vegetative, asexual and sexual growth/reproduction across a regional scale.


Twelve genotypes (six male, six female) of the dioecious bryophyte Bryum argenteum were subcultured to remove environmental effects, regenerated asexually to replicate each genotype 16 times, and grown over a period of 92 d. Plants were assessed for growth rates, asexual and sexual reproductive traits, and allocation to above- and below-ground regenerative biomass.


The degree of sexual versus asexual reproductive investment appears to be under genetic control, with three distinct ecotypes found in this study. Protonemal growth rate was positively correlated with asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction, whereas asexual reproduction was negatively correlated (appeared to trade-off) with vegetative growth (shoot production). No sex-specific trade-offs were detected. Female sex-expressing shoots were longer than males, but the sexes did not differ in growth traits, asexual traits, sexual induction times, or above- and below-ground biomass. Males, however, had much higher rates of inflorescence production than females, which translated into a significantly higher (24x) prezygotic investment for males relative to females.


Evidence for three distinct ecotypes is presented for a bryophyte based on regeneration traits. Prior to zygote production, the sexes of this bryophyte did not differ in vegetative growth traits but significantly differed in reproductive investment, with the latter differences potentially implicated in the strongly biased female sex ratio. The disparity between males and females for prezygotic reproductive investment is the highest known for bryophytes.

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