News from IAB

The mission of the International Association of Bryologists (IAB), as a society, is to strengthen bryology by encouraging interactions among all persons interested in byophytes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

How Mosses Have Sex in Spite of Their Swimming-Challenged Sperm

July 27, 2012

Last summer I was hiking in the tundra near Gray’s and Torrey’s Peaks when I came upon a moss that looked strange. It had little flattened discs that looked something like this:

Polytrichum piliferum. Creative Commons Lairich Rich. Click image for license and link.
What were these things?
Then I happened to pick up a book called “Gathering Moss“, and suddenly I knew what it was I had seen.
To understand, you must first appreciate this salient fact: moss, unlike most other land plants, still make swimming sperm*. (Wait, moss make sperm? Yes, yes they do. Why they do and how it fits into the Great Arc of Moss Life is a story for another day) And these sperm are surprisingly bad swimmers, and kinda dumb, to boot.

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