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Proceedings. Biological Sciences

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Genes -- Research, Microorganisms -- nomenclature


The evolution of sustained plant-animal interactions depends critically upon genetic variation in the fitness benefits from the interaction. Genetic analyses of such interactions are limited to a few model systems, in part because genetic variation may be absent or the interacting species may be experimentally intractable. Here, we examine the role of sperm-dispersing microarthropods in shaping reproduction and genetic variation in mosses. We established experimental mesocosms with known moss genotypes and inferred the parents of progeny from mesocosms with and without microarthropods, using a pooled sequencing approach. Moss reproductive rates increased fivefold in the presence of microarthropods, relative to control mesocosms. Furthermore, the presence of microarthropods increased the total number of reproducing moss genotypes, and changed the rank-order of fitness of male and female moss genotypes. Interestingly, the genotypes that reproduced most frequently did not produce sporophytes with the most spores, highlighting the challenge of defining fitness in mosses. These results demonstrate that microarthropods provide a fitness benefit for mosses, and highlight the potential for biotic dispersal agents to alter fitness among moss genotypes.


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