The University of Tartu scientists collected a peat sample from Lääne-Virumaal Äntu nature reserve, which grew sprouts of Meesia longiseta moss, previously thought to be extinct. Now Tartu has anecdotes comparing the resurrection of moss to the resurrection of mammoths.
Meesia longiseta is thought to be a biological relic from colder climate times. It received its Estonian name from its very long – over 10 cm – sphorophytes, carrying pear-shaped pollen capsules. In addition to sphorophytes, this species is distinctive from a very similar Meesia trifaria because of its smooth leaf edges.
Estonia is a home to three kinds of Meesia moss; however, the last sighting of Meesia longiseta was from 82 years ago. That’s why it was thought to be extinct. Last year, University of Tartu scientists found the sprouts of the moss growing in their lab. It was a pleasant surprise, but far from miraculous.
University of Tartu bryologists [translation: moss scientists] collected peat samples in autumn 2016 from three Estonian bogs in order to measure diversity in the diaspore bank.
The diaspore bank of mosses reduces the extinction risk of an ecological system the same way as the seed banks of vascular plants. A relevant reminder: the main propagation means for vascular plants are seeds and spores, but for mosses spores and gemmae. Diaspore bank is the reserve of plant propagation means that stay underground in the earth or peat for a shorter or longer time in a restive state. Such a bank might sprout a new plant when suitable conditions arrive, such as reduced competition or a new environmental situation.