Discovery of fruit colors relevant to plant evolution

Chinese researchers have revealed that different fruit colors are significant to the large-scale dispersal, distribution and diversification of plants.

Discovery of  fruit colors relevant to plant evolution

The discovery is based on a study of more than 280 different fruit colors of Gaultherieae that distribute around the Pacific, conducted by a research team led by Li Dezhu and Wang Hong from the Kunming Institute of Botany with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

By quantifying the relationship between fruit color and plant dispersal, elevation and latitudinal distribution, as well as diversification rates, the researchers found that lineages with red fruit prefer high latitudes and low altitudes and are significantly associated with large-scale dispersal events.

Lineages with violet fruits are mostly distributed in low latitudes and high altitudes. Though spreading less frequently, they diversify faster, leading to more violet-fruited species globally, according to the research recently published online in the academic journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

As an advanced outcome of plant evolution, fruit is one of the main forces that drive the flowering plants, also known as angiosperms, to dominate Earth as the most diversified land plants. However, how fruit colors correlate with their geographic distribution and diversification rates remained unanswered in previous studies.

The research is also supported by the U.S. University of Arizona and Botanical Research Institute of Texas.