Autumn colours and the nutrient retranslocation hypothesis: A theoretical assessment

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Abstract

The adaptive value of the bright colours of leaves in autumn is still debated. It is possible that autumn colours are an adaptation to protect the tree against photoinibition and photooxidation, which allows a more efficient recovery of nutrients. It has been proposed that the preference of aphids for trees that retranslocate nitrogen more efficiently can explain the high diversity of aphids on tree species with bright autumn colours. This scenario however does not take into account the impact of insects on the fitness of the trees and has not been analysed theoretically. Its assumptions and predictions, therefore, remain uncertain. I show with a model of insect-tree interaction that the system can actually evolve under particular conditions. I discuss the differences with the coevolution theory of autumn colours, available evidence and possible tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)714-721
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Volume244
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 21 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics

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