Loss of autumn colors under domestication: A byproduct of selection for fruit flavor?

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According to the coevolution hypothesis the red autumn leaves of certain tree species are a warning signal towards insects that lay their eggs on the trees. A recent study has shown that red leaves are common in wild varieties of apple (Malus pumila) but not in cultivated varieties. This suggests that autumn colors have been lost during domestication due to relaxed selection against insects. The few varieties with red leaves have small fruits, similar to their wild ancestors, which shows that they have been under less effective artificial selection. As expected by the coevolution hypothesis these red varieties are very susceptible to an insectborne disease, fire blight. Here I report further data on the loss of autumn colors under domestication. Since red leaf color is correlated with red fruit flesh color, if red fruit flesh has more astringent taste it is possible that loss of autumn colors is not only due to relaxed selection against insect, but also to direct artificial selection against astringent taste. However even varieties with yellow flesh turn out to have astringent taste. Moreover, while red fruit flesh is common in cultivated varieties with red leaves, it is very rare in wild varieties. It is unclear, therefore, whether loss of autumn color under domestication was a byproduct of artificial selection against red fruit flesh.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)856-858
Number of pages3
JournalPlant Signaling and Behavior
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science


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