The spores differ from those of ferns in their outer coat (exospore) being split up into four club-shaped hygroscopic threads (elaters) which are curled when moist, but become straightened when dry.
The outermost layer of the cell-wall of the ripe spore splits along spiral lines, giving rise to the elaters; these two long strips of wall, attached by their middle points to the spore, tend to straighten out in dry, and close round the spore in damp air.
Further, several spores will be likely to germinate together owing to their elaters becoming entangled; a fact of some importance, since the antheridia and archegonia, though occurring sometimes on the same prothallus, are more often borne on separate individuals.
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