- Author: Ben Faber
Evolutionary ecology of climacteric
and non-climacteric fruits
Published:15 September 2021https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2021.0352
Fleshy fruits can be divided between climacteric (CL, showing a typical rise in respiration and ethylene production with ripening after harvest) and non-climacteric (NC, showing no rise). However, despite the importance of the CL/NC traits in horticulture and the fruit industry, the evolutionary significance of the distinction remains untested. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that NC fruits, which ripen only on the plant, are adapted to tree dispersers (feeding in the tree), and CL fruits, which ripen after falling from the plant, are adapted to ground dispersers. A literature review of 276 reports of 80 edible fruits found a strong correlation between CL/NC traits and the type of seed disperser: fruits dispersed by tree dispersers are more likely to be NC, and those dispersed by ground dispersers are more likely to be CL. NC fruits are more likely to have red–black skin and smaller seeds (preferred by birds), and CL fruits to have green–brownish skin and larger seeds (preferred by large mammals). These results suggest that the CL/NC traits have an important but overlooked seed dispersal function, and CL fruits may have an adaptive advantage in reducing ineffective frugivory by tree dispersers by falling before ripening.