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Lycopodiophyta

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Lycopodiophyta

Lycopodiella cernua
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Lycopodiophyta
Classes

Lycopodiopsida - clubmosses
Selaginellopsida - spikemosses
Isoetopsida - quillworts

The division Lycopodiophyta is a tracheophyte subdivision of the Kingdom Plantae that includes some of the most "primitive" of extant (living) vascular plants. These species reproduce by shedding spores and have macroscopic alternation of generations, although some are homosporous while others are heterosporous. All have simple leaves.

There are three main groups within the Lycopodiophyta, sometimes separated at the level of order and sometimes at the level of class. These are subdivided at the class level here:

The members of this division have a long evolutionary history, and fossils are abundant worldwide, especially in coal deposits. In fact, most known genera are extinct.

The Lycopodiophyta are one of several classes of plants that expanded onto land during the Silurian and Devonian periods. Like all explorers it found new hazards that demanded new solutions. While the ocean currents blended oxygen, water and nutrients into a soup, the land had a layered structure with water and minerals in the soil and oxygen and light in the air. The intense sunlight presented a greater risk of genetic damage. Without water, pervasive desiccation became a possibility, and more structural support was required to resist gravity.

Many adaptations of the Lycopodiophyta can be explained as a response to these conditions. They continued the development and specialization of roots to extract nutrients from the soil and developed leaves for photosynthesis and gas exchange, using a stem for transport. A waxy cuticle helped retain moisture, and stoma allowed respiration. The vulnerable meiotic gametophyte is protected from radiation by its reduced size and often by the use of subterranean mycorhiza for its energy source instead of photosynthesis. Club-mosses are homosporous, but spike-mosses and quillsworts are heterosporous. In heterospores the female spores are larger than the male because they store food for the new generation.

During the Carboniferous period, tree-like Lycopodiophyta (such as Lepidodendron) formed huge forests. Unlike modern trees, leaves grew out of the entire surface of the trunk and branches, but would fall off as the plant grew, leaving only a small cluster of leaves at the top. Their remains formed many fossil coal deposits. In Fossil Park, Glasgow, Scotland, fossilized Lycopodiophyta trees can be found in sandstone. The trees are marked with diamond-shaped scars where they once had leaves. They are informally known as scale trees.

The spores of Lycopodiophyta are highly flammable and so have been used in fireworks. Currently, huperzine, a chemical isolated from a Chinese clubmoss, is under investigation as a possible treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

External links

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