It's Not Easy Being Blue: Are There Olfactory and Visual Trade-Offs in Plant Signalling?


Journal Article

Understanding the signals used by plants to attract seed disperses is a pervasive quest in evolutionary and sensory biology. Fruit size, colour, and odour variation have long been discussed in the controversial context of dispersal syndromes targeting olfactory-oriented versus visually-oriented foragers. Trade-offs in signal investment could impose important physiological constraints on plants, yet have been largely ignored. Here, we measure the reflectance and volatile organic compounds of a community of Malagasy plants and our results indicate that extant plant signals may represent a trade-off between olfactory and chromatic signals. Blue pigments are the most visually-effective--blue is a colour that is visually salient to all known seed dispersing animals within the study system. Additionally, plants with blue-reflecting fruits are less odiferous than plants that reflect primarily in other regions of the colour spectrum.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Valenta, K; Brown, KA; Melin, AD; Monckton, SK; Styler, SA; Jackson, DA; Chapman, CA

Published Date

  • January 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 10 / 6

Start / End Page

  • e0131725 -

PubMed ID

  • 26115040

Pubmed Central ID

  • 26115040

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0131725


  • eng