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Plant Signal Behav. 2009 Sep;4(9):836-41. Epub 2009 Sep 21.

Unripe red fruits may be aposematic.

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Department of Science Education-Biology, Faculty of Science and Science Education, University of Haifa-Oranim, Tivon, Israel.


The unripe fruits of certain species are red. Some of these species disperse their seeds by wind (Nerium oleander, Anabasis articulata), others by adhering to animals with their spines (Emex spinosa) or prickles (Hedysarum spinosissimum). Certainly neither type uses red coloration as advertisement to attract the seed dispersing agents. Fleshy-fruited species (Rhamnus alaternus, Rubus sanguineus and Pistacia sp.), which disperse their seeds via frugivores, change fruit color from green to red while still unripe and then to black or dark blue upon ripening. The red color does not seem to function primarily in dispersal (unless red fruits form advertisement flags when there are already black ripe fruits on the plant) because the red unripe fruits of these species are poisonous, spiny, or unpalatable. The unripe red fruits of Nerium oleander are very poisonous, those of Rhamnus alaternus and Anabasis articulata are moderately poisonous, those of Rubus sanguineus are very sour, those of Pistacia sp. contain unpalatable resin and those of Emex spinosa and Hedysarum spinosissimum are prickly. We propose that these unripe red fruits are aposematic, protecting them from herbivory before seed maturation.

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