A shift from terrestrial to epiphytic habitats has occurred several times in different evolutionary lineages among mosses. Epiphyte mosses are thus not closely related to each other, but in spite of this they share a number of similar morphological character s. These characters are usually considered as adaptations to epiphytic habitat conditions.
Although the correlation between certain morphological characters and epiphytism is striking, the evolutionary pathways and mechanisms behind them are still unknown. Most of the potential adaptations in epiphytic mosses are in the sporophyte generation, and they can affect reproduction and dispersal. Due to this, they have a high potential to affect the reproductive success and hence fitness.
My aim is to study morphological evolution of epiphyte mosses, and detect the role of adaptive evolution in creating new morphological character combinations. I will reconstruct a phylogeny including several epiphytic moss lineages. In addition, I will study the environmental parameters such as wind speed, which potentially affect the dispersal in epiphytic habitats.
Using the phylogeny, I will explore the patterns of morphological character transformations in different epiphytic lineages, and detect the correlation between morphological characters and habitat shift. True adaptations are those ones, which are evolving simultaneously with the habitat shift in phylogenetic tree.
Based on this information I will be able to find the traits which evolution is connected with ecological shift to epiphytism, and to study variation of the character transformations in different moss lineages. Using the data from environmental parameters I can detect the morphological characters that improve the dispersal of epiphytic mosses.
In general, this study will improve our understanding on morphological character evolution in plants and factors behind it. Due to their simple structure, mosses offer an ideal group for studies of morphological evolution.
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