Plants “Evolve” to Produce Fruit Colors that Attract Certain Animals

by on ; last featured October 4, 2018

A recent CBC news story caught my eye (that may be because the monkey in the article’s first picture is not going for the bananas, or that I was thinking I would make sure to thoroughly wash any of those fruits the monkey was walking over before eating). But it seems that researchers studying plants in Uganda and Madagascar have found that plants seem to produce fruits in colors matching what the local animals that eat them can easily see.

There are various types of plants which are similar in both countries, even though they are over 1,000 miles apart and separated by an ocean. But both countries have large regions that are mountainous and covered in rainforests, which means that similar plants (the associated journal article mentions that the plants are from the same genera and families) that thrive in those environments are going to be more common in both locations, due to similar ecological conditions.

So the researchers noticed that most fruits in Uganda (mainland Africa) ripen to a red color, and are fed on primarily by birds and monkeys. However in Madagascar, these same types of fruit are green (or yellow), but a different green compared to the leaves. Their fruits are eaten mostly by lemurs. According to the CBC article, the majority of birds and monkeys have color vision similar to humans, but lemurs can’t tell the difference between green and red, so to them a red berry would be hard to tell from a green leaf. But a much brighter or duller color of green would stand out to them, as would yellow coloring (which they can see). In addition, another more-recent news item from some of the same researchers mentioned that for Lemurs, fruit scent may also play a role in their preference for selecting which fruit to eat.

If such a plant doesn’t produce fruit in a color (or scent) that attracts animals to eat it and disperse the seeds, that plant goes extinct.

Now many plants depend upon animals to eat their fruits and then disperse the seeds in their droppings, otherwise the plant could not reproduce. Now in this study they mention the idea that scientists have debated “about whether plants evolve to produce fruits of particular colours to attract particular animals to help spread their seeds.” But first of all, plants don’t anticipate and plan and then make changes to their genes in order to “evolve” new fruit colors. Secondly, this is not pondscum-to-people evolution at all, but natural selection at work. If such a plant doesn’t produce fruit in a color (or scent) that attracts animals to eat it and disperse the seeds, that plant goes extinct.

What this shows is that plant kinds were divinely created with a great deal of genetic diversity, enabling them to produce fruit, flowers, and leaves of many different colors. Jesus, who created all plants (John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:16–17), even mentioned this when talking about the lilies of the field (Luke 12:27–28). And since God originally created all animals to be vegetarian (Genesis 1:30), he also would have made sure that plants could readily reproduce, ensuring the survival of both the plants and the animals which fed on them. When you see news items like these, they should remind you (even in a fallen world) of God’s intricate design and care of his creation.

Get More Answers on Answers News

This item was discussed today on Answers News with regular cohosts Dr. Georgia Purdom and Bodie Hodge and guest Dr. Tommy Mitchell, medical doctor and speaker for AiG. Answers News is our twice-weekly news program filmed live before a studio audience here at the Creation Museum and broadcast on my Facebook page and the Answers in Genesis Facebook page. They also discussed the following intriguing topics:

  • Neanderthals had dexterous hands that could have held tools like a pen.
  • If extra dimensions do exist, they must be really, really small.
  • A winding road from Adventist pastor, to USC humanist chaplain.
  • And more!

Watch the entire episode of Answers News for October 4, 2018.

Be sure to join us each Monday and Thursday at 2 p.m. (EDT) on my Facebook page or the Answers in Genesis Facebook page for Answers News. You won’t want to miss this unique news program that gives science and culture news from a distinctly biblical and Christian perspective.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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