International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 321–337 | Cite as

Primate Fruit Color: Useful Concept or Alluring Myth?

  • Kim ValentaEmail author
  • Omer Nevo
  • Colin A. Chapman


While the importance of frugivorous primates as seed dispersers is well established, the question of the extent to which they exert selective pressure on fruit color phenotypes is contested. Numerous studies have identified suites of primate fruit colors, but the lack of agreement among them illustrates the difficulty of identifying the match between primate foraging behavior and the extent of primate–plant coevolution. This may indicate that primates do not shape fruit traits, at least in a consistent direction, or that the evolution of fruit color is affected by a complex array of selection pressures in which primates play only a part. Here, we review the role of primates in shaping fruit color in the context of primate color vision phenotypes, and fruit phenotypic constraints and selective pressures. To test the hypothesis that fruit color is subjected to selection pressures by primates, we offer six testable predictions aimed at disentangling the complex array of factors that can contribute to fruit color phenotypes, including animal mutualists, animal antagonists, and developmental and phylogenetic constraints of fruits. We conclude that identifying the importance of primate seed dispersers in shaping fruit visual traits is possible, but more complex than previously thought.


Coevolution Food selection Fruit color Fruit syndrome Primate fruit syndrome Primate seed dispersal 



The authors are grateful to Drs Onja Razafindratsima, Laurence Culot, Yamato Tsuji, and Hiroki Sato for the opportunity to contribute to this special issue on primate seed dispersal, and to two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the manuscript. K. Valenta and C. A. Chapman were supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the Canada Research Chairs program, and O. Nevo was supported by the German Science Foundation (DFG; grant ON 2156/1-1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McGill School of the Environment and Department of AnthropologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation GenomicsUniversity of UlmUlmGermany

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