Field of Science

Easter Moss

My advisor's daughter left us some Easter goodies in the laboratory over the weekend. Sitting in our office fridge was this cute little bunny. It is filled with some gametophytes and sporophytes of the moss Atrichum. It is a common genus in Connecticut that can be found growing on disturbed soils such as road-banks.

This is in the moss family Polytrichaceae, which also contains the genus Polytrichum. The names of these two genera have an interesting relationship. Polytrichum ca be broken down in to its component parts. Poly- is a prefix derived from Greek that means much or many. The second half of the word is also of Greek origin. -trichum refers to a hair, thread, or filament, hence the common name is the hairy capped moss. Atrichum also has a cap, or calyptra, on its sporophyte (not pictured here). However its calyptra is entirely hairless, thus the prefix a- means not or without. So this genus is without hairs on the calyptra. Isn't it great when the scientific name of an organism has meaning and relates to its morphology (exterior physical appearance).

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