Polar Biology

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 241-245

First online:

Photoprotective pigment as an adaptive strategy in the antarctic moss Ceratodon purpureus

  • Adele PostAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University

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Variation in leaf pigmentation from green to ginger is observed for Ceratodon purpureus (Hedw.) Brid. in Antarctica. Electron microscopy of ginger and green leaves reveals less thylakoid stacking, a response to greater light exposure, in the ginger leaves. In extremely exposed sites C. purpureus has low chlorophyll a/b ratios which correlate with decreased 77K chlorophyll fluorescence, indicating damage to chlorophyll a. Pigment analysis of ginger moss shows that even when the chlorophyll a/b ratio has not decreased the pigment composition differs from green moss. The increase in anthocyanin and decrease in chlorophyll concentrations largely account for the visual change from green to ginger. The ratio of total carotenoid to chlorophyll varies from 0.35 in green moss to 0.55 in the ginger moss, with violaxanthin increased preferentially. Since these changes in pigmentation are consistent with photoprotection and they are linked to light dependent variations in chloroplast structure, it appears that photoprotective pigments are a useful adaptation for the bright Antarctic environment.