Moose Moss: This Moss Has a Special Relationship With Moose Dung

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Moose: creating moss habitat. Photo: Powhusku / CC by 2.0

Tiny Shade Umbrellas for Moose Dung?

What are the umbrellas? No, they’re not designed to cool and shade the moose dung. They’re actually a large apophysis, a part of the moss just below the capsule that contains the moss’s spores.

The moss has adapted to look a lot like a flower, with its central spore-containing area that’s surrounded by a large umbrella that pretends to be the flower petals.

In this way, the moss attracts flies. The flies land on the “flower” and get covered in moss spores. Then they buzz off, heading to another pile of their most favorite thing: dung.

The moss spores travel with them, getting lodged in a new pile of dung. For a plant without a lot of travel options, this is a good way to go far.

Creative Reproduction in the Natural World

Many plants and animals have very creative ways to reproduce. Some plants like burdock stick to your clothing or hair as you walk through the forest. Others send tiny spores flying through the air.

Maple trees send spinning “helicopters” into the air and into the hands of schoolchildren, who spread them around the neighborhood.

And your friendly moosedung moss? All it needs is a moose and a few flies, and it’s ready to find a new home.

Resources

Ohio University Bryophyte Web. Splachnum rubrum, Splachnum luteum. Accessed July 11, 2013.

University of Alaska Fairbanks. Animal Manure as Fertilizer. Accessed July 11, 2013.

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