A consideration of the biology of the sorus gives an insight into the advantages obtained by the one type over the preceding, as regards protection, spore production and the dispersal of the spores, and thus indicates the way in which natural selection may have acted.
These coloured spots are due to the presence of a sorus or layer of countless numbers of minute brown spores, the uredospores of the summer fruiting form.
The sorus has a somewhat elongated receptacle, on which the sporangia arise basipetally; the indusium may be cup-shaped, bivalve or wanting.
A consideration of the Filicaceae as arranged above will show that the several sub-orders may in general terms be said to form a series between those in which the sorus consists of a single circle of bulky sporangia and those Polypodiaceae in which the numerous small sporangia appear to be grouped without order in the sorus.
On the ground mainly of an examination of the sorus and sporangium, Bower has shown that the Filicaceae may be divided into three groups - the Simplices, Gradatae and Mixtae - in which the sporangia arise simultaneously, in basipetal succession, or irregularly in the sorus respectively.
In a number of genera, which there is reason to regard as relatively primitive, the sporangia show the same regular basipetal succession as in some of the preceding groups; in the great majority, however, the succession is not regular, but those of various ages are intermixed in the sorus (fig.
Each sorus includes both microsporangia, with numerous spores, and megasporangia, each of which contains a single megaspore with a complicated wall.
The differences in the form and mode of dehiscence of the sporangia (those of the Simplices having median dehiscence and a horizontal annulus, those of the Gradatae a more or less oblique position of the annulus and of the plane of dehiscence, while in the Mixtae the annulus is vertical and the dehiscence transverse) stand in relation to the position of the sporangia in the sorus relatively to one another.