Field of Science

Bryophyte Week - Haploid Holiday

Last week's blizzard day generated a laboratory crunch this week. Even in a survey type class, it takes more than a three-hour laboratory period to cover bryophytes. Typical, bryophytes just get no respect. So the rest of the morning will be spent rounding up the live specimens from the greenhouse so that they may be tortured all afternoon. As always Riccia seems to be missing. It always seems to get rediscovered, but usually too late. However you can always count on the marchantioid liverworts. Here's a nice image of one from the field showing the broad (~1 cm) ribbon-like thallus. The photosynthetic chambers each with a central pore are nicely evident, as is the dichotomous branching. Liversworts are quite uncommon anywhere in the maize and soybean desert; this image is from Washington near the home of the infamous Dr. Chips, who lurks around this blog from time to time. Like all bryophytes, and unlike all other land plants, the organism is haploid so that 2nd set of chromosomes is so over rated.


Dr Chips said...

Living in an ideal temperate rainforest eco-community, I can't help be impressed with all the bryophytes, mosses, and other superior life forms that surround me. A coulee of weeks ago I climbed a ladder and cleaned out the mosses that had tumbled off my roof tiles into the gutters, and the health and vigor of these "island communities" that survive on essentially nothing but rain amazes me.

I would point out that I actually found and collected Antheroceros when a student at UNH, which may have been my botanical highlight as an undergraduate. I have visited the site repeatedly since, and never seen the bugger again. Bryophyte-ology is a cruel mistress, I can tell you!

The Phytophactor said...

As Dr Chips (wood not cow) points out bryophytes seem to be able to live on just about nothing, and while we think them fragile, they're really, really tough, and the conditions for the pioneers of early life on land and a tile roof are probably not all that different.
And you set the bar high for botanically oriented folk out there as someone who's found hornworts in the field!