fossil_range = Early
image_caption = Reconstruction of "Aglaophyton", illustrating bifurcating axes with terminal sporangia, and rhizoids.
divisio = unspecified
classis = unspecified
ordo = unspecified
familia = unspecified
genus = "Aglaophyton"
species = "A. major"
binomial = "Aglaophyton major"
synonyms = "Rhynia major"
"Aglaophyton major" was the
sporophytegeneration of diplohaplontic, pre-vascular, axial, free-sporing land plant of the Lower Devonianthat had anatomical features intermediate between those of the bryophytes and vascular plantsor tracheophytes.
"A. major" was first described by Kidston and Lang in 1920 as the new species "Rhynia major".R. Kidston and W.H. Lang (1920) On Old Red Sandstone plants showing structure from the Rhynie chert bed, Aberdeenshire. Part II. Additional notes on "Rhynia major" n. sp. and "Hornea lignieri" n.g, n. sp. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 52, 603-627.] The species is known only from the
Rhynie chertin Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where it grew in the vicinity of a silica-rich hot spring, together with a number of associated vascular plantssuch as a smaller species " Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii" which may be interpreted as a representative of the ancestors of modern vascular plants and "Asteroxylon mackei", which was an ancestor of modern clubmosses ( Lycopsida).
The stems of "Aglaophyton" were round in cross-section, smooth, unornamented, and up to about 6mm in diameter. Kidston and Lang interpreted the plant as growing upright, to about 50cm in height, but EdwardsD.S. Edwards (1986) "Aglaophyton major", a non-vascular land-plant from the Devonian Rhynie chert. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 93- 173-204.] has re-interpreted it as having prostrate habit, with shorter aerial axes of about 15 cm height. The axes branched dichotomously, the aerial axes branching at a comparatively wide angle of up to 90o, and were terminated with elliptical, thick-walled sporangia containing many identical spores (isospores) bearing trilete marks. The spores may therefore be interpreted as meiospores, the product of meiotic divisions, and thus the plants described by Edwards and Kidston and Lang were diploid, sporophytes. The plant was originally interpreted as a tracheophyte, because the stem has a simple central vascular cylinder or protostele, but more recent interpretations in the light of additional data indicated that "Rhynia major" had water-conducting tissue lacking the secondary thickening bars seen in the xylem of "Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii", more like the water-conducting system (
hydrome) of moss sporophytes. Edwards demoted the species to the status of a non-vascular plant and re-named it "Aglaophyton major".
"Aglaophyton" is among the first plants known to have had a
mycorrhizal relationship with fungicite journal|author=Remy W, Taylor TN, Hass H, Kerp H |year=1994|title= 4 hundred million year old vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae|journal= Proc. National Academy of Sciences|volume=91|pages=11841–11843|doi= 10.1073/pnas.91.25.11841] , which formed arbuscules in a well-defined zone in the cortex of its stems. "Aglaophyton" lacked roots, and like other rootless land plants of the Silurian and early Devonian may have relied on mycorrhizal fungi for acquisition of water and nutrients from the soil.
gametophyteof the species has been formally described,Remy, W & Remy, R (1980) "Lyonophyton rhyniensis" n.gen. et nov. spec., ein Gametophyt aus dem Chert von Rhynie (Unterdevon, Schottland). Argumenta Palaeobotanica, 6, 37-72] which was assigned to a new form taxon"Lyonophyton rhyniensis", but is now properly referred to as an "Aglaophyton" gametophyte. The Rhynie chertbears many examples of male and female gametophytes, which are loosely similar in their construction to the sporophyte phase, down to bearing rhizoids.cite journal|doi=10.1073/pnas.0501985102|title=Life history biology of early land plants: Deciphering the gametophyte phase|year=2005|author=Taylor, T. N.|journal=Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences|volume=102|pages=5892]
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