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Received 3 December 2003 Accepted 25 February 2004

Summary: Received 3 December 2003
Accepted 25 February 2004
Published online 20 April 2004
The coevolution theory of autumn colours
Marco Archetti1*
and Sam P. Brown2
DeŽpartement de Biologie, Section EŽ cologie et EŽ volution, UniversiteŽ de Fribourg, Chemin du MuseŽe 10, 1700 Fribourg,
Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK
According to the coevolution theory of autumn colours, the bright colours of leaves in autumn are a
warning signal to insects that lay their eggs on the trees in that season. If the colour is linked to the level
of defensive commitment of the tree and the insects learn to avoid bright colours, this may lead to a
coevolutionary process in which bright trees reduce their parasite load and choosy insects locate the most
profitable hosts for the winter. We try to clarify what the theory actually says and to correct some misun-
derstandings that have been put forward. We also review current research on autumn colours and discuss
what needs to be done to test the theory.
Keywords: autumn colours; coevolution; biological signalling; trees; evolution


Source: Archetti, Marco - Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University


Collections: Biology and Medicine