Bryophytes (liverworts, mosses and hornworts) are the closest living relatives of the first group of plants that successfully colonized land. This small but well-established group of plants is unique among other land plants in having a dominant gametophyte phase in their life cycle and a single unbranched sporophyte that depends on the dominant gametophyte plant. Bryophytes occur throughout the world in all continents, occupying an assortment of habitats, especially in moist shady places. Many species have broad geographic ranges that may span two or more continents. Dispersal of bryophytes is brought about by spores, vegetative propagules or by unspecialized fragments of the gametophyte.
The bryophyte flora of Sri Lanka remains relatively poorly researched. According to checklists available, the Island harbours 560 mosses, 327 liverworts and five hornworts. Most of the collecting has been in the southern half of the country, especially in the Central Highlands. Exact locality details are missing for most of these specimens. There is no documentation for moss or liverwort Flora of Sri Lanka. Lack of a thorough taxonomic foundation is a major impediment to study the biogeography of Sri Lankan bryophytes. O’Shea (2003) presented a summary of current knowledge of biogeography of Sri Lankan mosses. According to his statistical analysis based on existing records Sri Lankan mosses show strong relationships with India, Indochina, and Malaysia but a much lower affinity with Africa.
Here we conducted a similar study for liverworts and hornworts using Kroeber’s percentage of similarity, which suggests that Sri Lankan liverworts and hornworts show a considerable similarity with those of Java, Malaysia, Thailand, and India. However, more and wider systematic field explorations and taxonomic studies are needed to understand the biogeography of Sri Lankan bryophytes. To address this, field explorations and phylogenetic studies are being carried out, and the results will contribute to elucidate the biogeographic affinities of Sri Lanka’s bryophyte flora.
How to Cite:
Rubasinghe, S. C. K., & Ruklani, N. C. S. (2017). Biogeography of Sri Lankan bryophytes: the present status. Ceylon Journal of Science, 46(5), 137–142. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/cjs.v46i5.7461