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Little animals spread sperm for smelly mosses

Sex-specific odors may entice springtails to kick off fertilization

By
1:56pm, July 20, 2012

Mosses really may be getting a reproductive boost by luring tiny animals to deliver plant sperm.

Male moss plants don’t make pollen, but instead send sperm off to try to swim through dew to find a female moss. Earlier research in dry lab containers showed that the sperm can hitchhike on mites and little arthropods called springtails. “The question was, but do they?” says Sarah Eppley, an evolutionary ecologist at Portland State University in Oregon.

Now, lab tests with two moss species show that in more natural, dewy conditions, springtails increased moss fertilization. With water alone, sperm found female moss in roughly a third of moss test clumps, but water plus springtails raised the number to almost half, E

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