• bryophyte;
  • Ceratodon purpureus;
  • sexual reproduction;
  • sperm;
  • stress tolerance


  • Sexual reproduction in mosses requires that sperm be released freely into the environment before finding and fertilizing a receptive female. After release from the male plant, moss sperm may experience a range of abiotic stresses; however, few data are available examining stress tolerance of moss sperm and whether there is genetic variation for stress tolerance in this important life stage.
  • Here, we investigated the effects of environmental desiccation and recovery on the sperm cells of three moss species (Bryum argenteum, Campylopus introflexus, and Ceratodon purpureus).
  • We found that a fraction of sperm cells were tolerant to environmental desiccation for extended periods (d) and that tolerance did not vary among species. We found that this tolerance occurs irrespective of ambient dehydration conditions, and that the addition of sucrose during dry-down improved cell recovery. Although we observed no interspecific variation, significant variation among individuals within species in sperm cell tolerance to environmental desiccation was observed, suggesting selection could potentially act on this basic reproductive trait.
  • The observation of desiccation-tolerant sperm in multiple moss species has important implications for understanding bryophyte reproduction, suggesting the presence of a significant, uncharacterized complexity in the ecology of moss mating systems.