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Keywords:

  • mating systems;
  • inbreeding depression;
  • population structure;
  • homosporous pteridophytes

Abstract Mating systems of 18 species of homosporous ferns follow a bimodal distribution, similar to that observed for seed plants (Schemske and Lande, 1985). Most species are highly outcrossing, a few are inbreeding, and two species examined to date have mixed mating systems. Equisetum arvense and several species of lycopods are also highly outcrossing. Several mechanisms, including inbreeding depression, antheridiogen, and ontogenetic sequences that result in effectively unisexual gametophytes, promote outcrossing in homosporous ferns and perhaps other homosporous pteridophytes as well. In some species of homosporous ferns, selection has favored the evolution of inbreeding as an adaptation for colonization. High levels of intra- and interpopulational gene flow via spore dispersal, coupled with high levels of intergametophytic crossing, generally lead to genetically homogeneous populations and species of homosporous ferns. However, rock-dwelling ferns and ferns from xeric habitats may exhibit significant population genetic structure due to physically patchy habitats. Reticulate evolution in homosporous ferns may be enhanced by high levels of intergametophytic crossing.