Sex-specific morphology and physiology in Ceratodon purpureus

Separate sexes and biased sex ratios are common in bryophytes, yet little is known about how fine-scale, sex-specific morphological traits are correlated with physiology and population sex-ratios. Slate et al. analysed cellular, leaf, and canopy traits and photochemical measurements in the dioecious moss Ceratodon purpureus.

Ceratodon purpureus
Ceratodon purpureus. Photo Michael Lüth.

Male and female plants differed in cell, leaf and photochemical measures. These sexual dimorphisms were female biased, with females having larger and thicker leaves and greater values for chlorophyll fluorescence-based, leaf photochemistry measurements than males. Female traits were also more variable than male traits. Interestingly, field population sex ratios were significantly male biased in two study populations and female biased in the third study population.

The results demonstrate that the larger morphology and the greater physiological output of female C. purpureus gametophytes compared with males occurs across populations and is likely to have significant effects on resource allocation and biotic interactions. However, this high level of dimorphism does not explain population sex ratio variation in the three study populations tested. This research lays the groundwork for future studies on how differential sex-specific variation in cell and leaf traits influences bryophyte plant fitness.

Reference List

Slate, M. L., Rosenstiel, T. N., & Eppley, S. M. (2017). Sex-specific morphological and physiological differences in the moss Ceratodon purpureus (Dicranales). Annals of Botany, 120(5), 845–854.