Haploid gametophytes of bryophytes spread by clonal growth but mate locally, within an area defined by the range of sperm movement. Rarity of establishment from spores or vegetative competition can result in unisexual populations unable to reproduce sexually. Females typically outcompete males, probably because females expend fewer resources than males on the production of gametes. Extreme sexual dimorphism—tiny males growing as epiphytes on much larger females—has evolved many times. Haploid selfing is common in bryophytes with bisexual gametophytes, and results in completely homozygous sporophytes. Spores from these sporophytes recapitulate the genotype of their single haploid parent. This process can be considered analogous to ‘asexual’ reproduction with ‘sexual’ reproduction occurring after rare outcrossing between haploid parents. Ferns also produce bisexual haploid gametophytes but, unlike bryophytes, haploid outcrossing predominates over haploid selfing. This difference is probably related to clonal growth and vegetative competition occurring in the haploid but not the diploid phase in bryophytes, but the reverse in ferns. Ferns are thereby subject to stronger inbreeding depression than bryophytes.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Weird sex: the underappreciated diversity of sexual reproduction’.
One contribution of 15 to a theme issue ‘Weird sex: the underappreciated diversity of sexual reproduction’.
- Accepted April 8, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.