The Bryophytes are the most elementary of the land plants and include the three groups, Anthocerotophyta commonly known as the hornworts, Hepaticophyta (Marchantiophyta) commonly known as the liverworts and Bryophyta commonly known as the mosses. They are distinguished from other plants by their persistent reproductive structures, the gametophytes, the short threads or rhizoids with which they anchor themselves to the ground and the fact that their motile sperm cells must swim to the egg, held in a flask-shaped organ in the gametophyte, through a fluid-filled protective tube of cells.
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The Anthocerotophyta or Anthocerophyta are more commonly known as the hornworts. These are thought to be one of the oldest extant groups of land plants. Hornworts consist of a flattened thallus with the gametangia produced along the midline of the thallus, each thallus able to produce several sporophytes.
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The plants contained in the Division Bryophyta, are more commonly known as mosses. These are non-vascular plants of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, often evident as members of the ground flora, or epiphytes on the trunks of trees. There are thought to be approximately 20,000 known species globally, with many more species yet to be described, especially in the tropics.
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The Hepaticophyta or Hepatophyta are more commonly known as the liverworts. These plants can be leafy (resembling mosses) or thallose (as with the hornworts). There are estimated to be between 6000 and 8000 species of liverworts.
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