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Ascomycetes on bryophytes: systematics and biology

Bryophytes are unique hosts

Bryophytes were among the first plants to colonize terrestrial habitats some 400 million years ago. Based on fossil records it is often argued that they evolved slowly. Though not monophyletic, bryophytes share a number of features. The small, free-living gametophyte is the main assimilative phase upon which a permanently attached, unbranched, monosporangiate sporophyte develops that is physiologically dependent on the gametophyte. The gametophyte is thallose in hornworts and some hepatics, and leafy in most hepatics and all mosses. Further characteristic features are poikilohydry, desiccation tolerance, external water conduction, water and nutrient uptake by the whole plant, asexual reproduction using a variety of propagules, and broad distribution areas. Bryophytes often occur in aquatic, terrestrial or epiphytic habitats with little or no competition from other plants. Many species are potentially immortal though the individual shoots may die off.