Fruit Odor as A Ripeness Signal for Seed-Dispersing Primates? A Case Study on Four Neotropical Plant Species.
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/13298
Fleshy fruits contain a myriad of secondary metabolites that may fulfill various non-mutually exclusive ecological functions. Among them are defense against pathogens and herbivores, manipulation of frugivores' gut retention time, or controlling the germination process. In addition, it has been suggested that aroma compounds may be used as fruit-selection cues by frugivores, and that plants may be under selection to provide a reliable signal for ripeness to seed-dispersal vectors through ripe fruit aroma. A previous project demonstrated that fruit odor of two Neotropical primate-dispersed plant species can be used by primates to identify ripe fruits. Here, we provide data supporting the hypothesis that olfactory conspicuousness of ripeness in these two species may be an evolved signal rather than a cue exploited by primates. We analyzed the odors of ripe and unripe fruits of the two species along with odors of two sympatric species whose main dispersal vector is passerine birds. We show that only primate-dispersed species significantly change their odor profiles upon ripening. Thus, odor of bird-dispersed species is not informative regarding their ripeness level and is likely to fulfill other functions. We discuss these data in light of the multiple hypotheses for the presence of fruit secondary metabolites, and we offer a roadmap for future studies to establish the hypothesis that fruit odor is an evolved signal for ripeness.