Mount Melbourne in northern Victoria Land, Antarctica, is a glaciated 2733 m volcanic cone. The moss Compylopus pyriformis occurs on two small areas of steam-warmed snow-free ground near its summit. This moss species also occurs in temperate regions world-wide, but has not been recorded elsewhere in continental Antarctica. RAPD (Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA) studies of 26 samples of C. pyriformis from two areas of heated ground on Mount Melbourne showed there was genetic diversity within the population. Genetic evidence for dispersal between the two sites, together with some genetic variation within individual colonies, indicates a single colonisation event has probably occurred at this extremely isolated location followed by multiple mutations. A single sample of moss protonema was collected 25 years ago from steam-warmed ground near the summit of another volcano, Mount Erebus (3794 m), on Ross Island some 300 km south of Mount Melbourne. The moss could not be identified based on morphological and reproductive criteria, as all attempts to differentiate it to a recognisable gametophyte were unsuccessful. The RAPD technique has now shown it to be C. pyriformis, and closely related to the population on Mount Melbourne.
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