Do adult ferns get to decide the sex of the younger ferns? Makoto Matsuoka, a molecular biologist at Nagoya University in Japan, led a study of Japanese climbing ferns (Lygodium japonicum) and found out that these ferns communicate across generations and select the gender of the younger ferns. Gametophytes or fully grown ferns play a vital role in maintaining a balanced gender ratio in Lygodium japonicum. The female gametophytes secrete a pheromone called gibberellin, which encourages the younger ferns to become males. This prevents gender imbalance in ferns and also thwarts them from becoming hermaphroditic. Thus, by maintaining balance between the sexes, Japanese climbing ferns eliminate the need for self-fertilization, maintain genetic diversity, and promote rapid reproduction.
Read more in Nature.