Sex and the single gametophyte: Revising the homosporous vascular plant life cycle in light of contemporary research
Homosporous vascular plants are typically depicted as extreme inbreeders, with bisexual gametophytes that produce strictly homozygous sporophytes. This view is promulgated in textbook life cycles despite ample evidence that natural populations of most species regularly outcross. We review research on a variety of mechanisms, including genetic load, asynchronous production of eggs and sperm, and pheromonal control of gamete production, that actively promote heterozygosity in ferns and lycophytes. Evolution of the land plants cannot be reconstructed without accurate depictions of the unique life cycle that has helped make ferns the second most diverse lineage of vascular plants on Earth. With revised illustrations and definitions, we provide scientists, educators, and students with a contemporary understanding of fern and lycophyte reproduction, revealing them as evolutionarily dynamic and exploiting a wide range of mating systems.
Haufler, CH; Pryer, KM; Schuettpelz, E; Sessa, EB; Farrar, DR; Moran, R; Schneller, JJ; Watkins, JE; Windham, MD
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