Are Apples Really red

A simple way to answer this question would be to say that, “ Apples are red because I see them red.” But wouldn’t that be a really naïve way to answer such a profound question as that, not likely to quench any educated human’s curiosity. Hence, our little aim will be to stride progressively in the direction of undermining our incomplete foundation of colour theory and rebuild it with a tinge of universal wisdom.

To begin with we really need understand the question – “ What is Red? “. A layman’s definition of the colour red would be – “ Red is the colour of an Apple “ and why shouldn’t it be. Right from the early sweet days of our kindergarten years we have been hammered by this impeccable statement to the point that we never really think of red’s independent existence or eternal origin. However the Oxford dictionary defines red as “A colour at the end of the spectrum next to orange and opposite violet..”. Let’s stick to this definition for the sake of moving on, but it still doesn’t help us in answering our questions.

In one’s high-school years one learns that a certain type of waves called as Electromagnetic waves are responsible for the production of sense of colour. In the case of red, an electromagnetic wave having a wavelength of about 700nm hits some of the cone cells of our retina and curiously, the brain makes up a minute coloured spot at that point. And we have been told to perceive this colour as ‘Red’. Doesn’t this raise a vey fundamental question – Does the colour red really exists? Or is it just an imagination of our developed brain? And not just red, this is a question that seemingly creeps on the entire spectrum of colours, radically making us think of our once very much strong notions.

Biological reason behind an Apple’s red colour :Colours in plants are the result of pigments which by support wrap the plant part in a discrete but seemingly continuous texture of their protein bound bodies. These little stacked up micro-organs have a crucial role of harvesting energy and help about in making redox reactions happen. The important part for us here is the ‘Harvesting of energy’, during this process the plant pigment absorbs only a certain part or a range of wavelengths from the incoming solar light while the remainder is reflected. It is this reflected light that happens to fall on our delicate retinas thus producing a complete colour picture.

The red colour is derived from the pigments called as anthocyanins, these develop and immask the fruit as it grows. The same phenomenon can be witnessed in cherries, raspberries, cranberries and other red fruits. Having a variety of medicinal values, these anthocyanins serve a small purpose of ‘White Knight’ for the plants by absorbing the excessive light flux which has a potential to damage the chlorophylls. But, Behold! There’s something more that these White knights unknowingly do, their rich colour which we, humans and some animals, perceive as ‘Red’, is a colour of caution & attraction, It draws over a swarming number of pollinating insects and arboreal animals towards it. The only reason behind all this being the colour ‘Red’. Isn’t it beautiful how a small natural phenomenon can depict a magnanimous aspect of the world? The Fruity results of Evolution:In 1859, Charles Darwin published his first formulated book “ On The Origin Of Species ”, a text so controversial and radical that it shaped the human mindset so drastically over the next decades. The key ‘Natural Selection’ remains the central crux idea of the whole wide web of biological diversity. You might be wondering why did we suddenly step into this big pool straight from the subject of colours and apples, but there’s an elementary reason behind it, we are diving a bit deeper so as to understand why the nature picked the colour ‘red’ for her baby ‘apple’.Evolution brings about a colossal change but it also costs an eon. All the fundamental characteristic questions such as, ‘Why does a Cheetah has spots ?’ or ‘ Why do lions hunt ’ etc, always have an evolutionary answer to them that clearly and logically gets rid of our small creeping doubts and presents the world in its uttermost scientific state.In case of our apple study, we will be looking at it through two different points of views one being the ‘modern synthesis’ while other being the ‘Lamarckism’. Before starting to give a brief description of what these two are, I would like you to note that Lamarckism is not widely accepted today and is an almost discarded theory, yet we will be discussing it here because it provides precious ideas and insights of evolutionary theory.

Lamarckism:Lamarckism, an inaccurately named notion after the French biologist Jean Lamarck, is a hypothetical idea that says that an organism passes its physical characteristics over to its offspring which it acquires over its lifetime. One of the fundamental laws of this theory dictates that a new organ or a feature is obtained in an organism once it feels the arising need of it and passes down this information to its offspring biologically. And in our analysis, this shall be the only needed point from Lamarckism.Now, if we were to say that – suppose Apples weren’t red at the beginning but only slightly reddish due to the availability of anthocyanins in smaller amounts, then Lamarckism provides a pretty explanation to this – The reddish apples biologically gathered the info that Reddish Apples were more favoured by the pollinators, and hence this characteristic being passed down to the next generations, the apples grew redder and redder until they were finally red.But this explanation seems to be supported by some rather vague assumptions that the apples had indeed some anthocyanin in them and were not red but of some other dull colour. Hence, one would say that this isn’t quite satisfactory and it still leaves some potholes yet to be filled. No worries! We only discussed this part so as to ready your mind on how really an evolutionary explanation works. Thus far, this isn’t really a proper explanation since we used the now discarded, Lamarckism, We shall proceed with the theory of ‘Modern Synthesis’.

Modern Synthesis: Modern Synthesis, a theory so profound and unique that it binds the genetic foundation with the notion of natural selection. Combining Mendelian notions along with Darwin’s, this synthesis was marked at the dawn of early 20th Century. We shall not endeavour to the depths of modern synthesis but only scratch the bare surface and pull out things that we need. The most important law of the modern synthesis that we are going to need is that, ‘ Mutation is perfectly natural and possible and it’s the key to progressive Evolution.’ Mutation is nothing but a damage or change in the DNA gene in such a way that it alters the genetic message carried by that gene, which ultimately results in changes in the organisms characteristics. Now we shall apply this point in our analysis of Apple Colour. So, let’s assume that the long long ago, Apples weren’t so red and as a result of some mutations the anthocyanins in some apples were produced in larger amounts, thus giving them a bit of reddish colour. Naturally, the arboreal animals and birds would prefer these redder apples due to their aesthetic attraction. Note here, that this Is nature’s natural selection in work, ultimately only the seeds of redder apples will be spread by the animals while the rest of them shall slowly perish. And by such process, the ‘Red’ made its mark on the Apple.Now, this explanation seems pretty fulfilling as to our original question. Finally, we have a clearer picture of colour origin.Also, an interesting to note here is that, Apples weren’t always so big, some 2-3 centuries ago, Apples used to be smaller than what they are now. But when the silk trade began, larger apples were favoured and grafted, as a result hybridisation took place and the smaller progeny diminished. A sweet example of selection through human interference.
Conclusion:So far, we have explored the existence of colour and a glimpse of its origin in nature. To conclude, we can safely say that colours are the way we interpret a certain range of Electromagnetic waves. We shouldn’t be surprised if someday some alien arrives who ‘hears’ colours instead of seeing them. That would be just his way of taking in the information that nature provides. Further, the material existence of the property ‘Colour’ is very questionable since we only know them to exist in our pretty little brains. When it came to the evolutionary origin of colour, we explored the scientific reason behind colour i.e the various pigments that gave organisms their colour while the process of natural selection and mutation that gave them their specific colour. When these two notions are well combined, they settle our knowledge of colours in a profound state.