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Title: How to make a red flower: the combinatorial effect of pigments

Red flowers have evolved repeatedly across angiosperms and are frequently examined in an ecological context. However, less is known about the biochemical basis of red colouration in different taxa. In this study, we examine the spectral properties, anthocyanin composition and carotenoid expression of red flowers in the tomato family, Solanaceae, which have evolved independently multiple times across the group. Our study demonstrates that Solanaceae typically make red flowers either by the sole production of red anthocyanins or, more commonly, by the dual production of purple or blue anthocyanins and orange carotenoids. In using carotenoids to modify the effect of purple and/or blue anthocyanins, these Solanaceae species have converged on the same floral hue as those solely producing red anthocyanins, even when considering the visual system of pollinators. The use of blue anthocyanins in red flowers appears to differ from other groups, and suggests that the genetic changes underlying evolutionary shifts to red flowers may not be as predictable as previously suggested.

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Oxford University Press
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National Science Foundation
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