Signal evolution in fly-dispersed dung mosses
Sources of Funding:
National Geographic Society, SC BRIN-EPSCOR
"Odor, color and fly-mediated spore dispersal in dung mosses (Splachnaceae)"
- The “dung mosses” (Splachnaceae) demonstrate the novel habit of using
decaying animal matter (instead of moist soil, wood or rocks) as a substrate.
- Sporophytes of many Splachnaceae are brightly colored, strongly scented
or both, presumably to attract insects (flies) to carry spores to dung,
carrion or bone.
- Coexistence of Splachnum and Tetraplodon species is mediated by
microhabitat, phenology and species-specific differences in fly guilds
that disperse spores.
I have teamed up with Paul Marino (Memorial University, Newfoundland (left))
and Bernard Goffinet (Univ. of Connecticut (right)) to ask the following
- Do sporophyte odors mimic those of the preferred substrate for gametophytes
of the same species? For example, do carrion-using Tetraplodon species smell of dimethyl disulfide?
- How do different moss taxa utilize visual vs. olfactory cues to attract flies?
- How many times did entomophily evolve in the Splachnaceae,
and from what kind of ancestral condition?
- Do species of Splachnum and Tetraplodon that occur across large land masses
vary in their sporophyte odors and dispersal strategies?
- Do Southern Hemisphere Taylorias diverge in dispersal phenotype between Australasian
and Austral American taxa?