|Research in Bryophyte ecology and evolution focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind which plants attract insects by examining th ecology and evolution of spore dispersal in Splachnaceae mosses and is being done in collaboration with Robert Raguso (Univ. of South Carolina) and Bernard Goffinet (Univ. of Connecticut). Mosses in the family Splachnaceae have a worldwide, mostly boreal distribution. A number of species share the common characteristic of growing on dung or other animal matter. These species, despite their geographical segregation, share a number of common characters, all of which are related to spore dispersal. In the Northern Hemisphere, spore dispersal results from visitation by flies and the sporophytes of these species are highly modified and promote the dispersal of spores to new droppings by flies.|
The sprorophyte has an elongated seta, the apophysis, which is located just below the capsule (the spore containing structure), is variously swollen and brightly colored, and the sporophyte of each species has a strong, characteristic odor (see Splachnum luteum and S. rubrum upper left photo). The capsule contains sticky spores. In sum, these ancient plants have converged upon a spore-dispersal strategy that combines visual and olfactory cues to attract insects. Our immediate goals focus on the: 1) characterization of sporophyte odor chemistry, 2) functional analysis of putative key adaptations, and 3) phylogenetic reconstruction of the Splachnaceae and the reconstruction of ancestral character-states.
Recent field work for this study has been conducted in Alaska and Chilean Patagonia via funding by the National Geographic Society and in Newfoundland via NSERC funding.