It’s Not Easy Being Blue: Are There Olfactory and Visual Trade-Offs in Plant Signalling? Journal Articles uri icon

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  • 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.


  • Valenta, Kim
  • Brown, Kevin A
  • Melin, Amanda D
  • Monckton, Spencer K
  • Styler, Sarah
  • Jackson, Derek A
  • Chapman, Colin A

publication date

  • 2015