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I am creating a fantasy world on a planet entirely separate from our own. Since it is a different world, it makes sense that the food there would be different as well.

Some of our fruit is similar. Oranges and lemons both have rinds, a fairly similar shape, and look nearly identical inside (save for the color, obviously). Apples and pears, while still similar in some aspects, are quite different in shape and consistency. Then there are fruits like Pomegranates and grapes that are widely different than anything else.

What determines what a fruit is like? Is it something to do with the climate? Perhaps surroundings? What makes a fruit the way it is? Is the answer unknown; does it appear to be random? By learning the answer to this question, I should hopefully be able to make realistic fruit for my world.

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Coevolution.

The most successful fruit is one that animals can see, enjoy the taste of, and don't eat the seeds inside. This way animals take the fruit and leave the seeds spread around for more of the same plants to grow. In that way, fruit is 'designed' to be taken by animals so that its seeds are spread.

So the way fruit looks, in the natural cases, depends on the local fauna.

For instance, as described on this page about the coevolution of birds and fruit:

plants have evolved conspicuously colored, relatively odorless fleshy fruits to attract the avian dispersers of their seeds.They are coevolving in response to the finely honed visual systems of the birds; plant species coevolving with color-blind mammalian seed-dispersers have, in contrast, dull-colored but smelly fruits. The bird-dispersed plants often have evolved fruits with giant seeds covered by a thin, highly nutritious layer of flesh. This forces the bird to swallow the fruit whole, since it is difficult or impossible just to nip off the flesh. In response, birds that are specialized frugivores (that is, that do not take other kinds of food) have evolved both bills with wide gapes (so they can swallow the fruit whole) and digestive tracts that can rapidly dissolve the flesh from the large impervious seed, which then can be regurgitated.

This page also goes into some details about the different characteristics of fruits and how those relate to particular types for animals.


There are also the unnatural cases.

Not some unholy undead fruit, but rather a human cultivated crop. An excellent example is the banana. The common banana found in the grocery store is a fruit guided by natural selection to look quite different from its natural counterpart.

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  • $\begingroup$ Could I get some examples to point me in the right direction? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Myron Nov 24 '15 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ While we're on the topic of seeds being spread, what about pumpkins and other hard squashes? It seems like the hard skin would keep the seeds from behind distributed. I can understand it as a protection, but how do the seeds get spread then? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Myron Nov 24 '15 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @TommyMyron It's the same as any fruit. It's important to realize large pumpkins are also the result of human intervention, uncultivated pumpkins are significantly smaller and easily carried off and consumed by medium to large sized animals. Hard shells keep smaller creatures from eating them and thus not spreading the seeds away from the mother plant. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 24 '15 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ Some fruits also expect their seeds to be eaten, survive the harsh environment of the eater's stomach, and then come out the other end far, far away from the parent tree (I believe the apple qualifies here). Others have other means, take the coconut which floats so that the ocean tides move the "fruit" to new islands. Re: bananas, the modern banana is a terrible, pale imitation of the real banana which went virtually extinct as a result of single-variety cultivation getting hit with disease (cocoa is in a similar situation right now). $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Nov 25 '15 at 17:50
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Fruit are meant to be eaten to help disperse the seeds farther afield to propagate the species.

So fruits that are more enjoyed by a species will propagate more. While Samuel said "don't eat the seeds inside" he really should have said, don't destroy the seeds. Most berries are spread by eating the whole fruit and defecating the seeds in a new location. This includes apples from deer and bear. Birds are particularly known for this.

Often for this, the seeds have been 'hardened' to handle passing through a digestive track. In some cases, for the seeds to germinate, they actually HAVE to pass through the track.

Part of the reason for Oranges and apples to change color when ripening is to have a 'sign' saying diner's ready come and get it. It is also one theory that humans have color vision to help us spot ripe fruit.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the changing color as a sign, I had not thought of that. That of course begs the question: why do some fruits (like blackberries) have three colors? Are red blackberries ripe to some species and not others? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Myron Nov 24 '15 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @TommyMyron good question, possibly, but that doesn't quite make sense, unless the seeds can handle being eaten by some animals, earlier, but need more time to 'finish'? I might need to look into that. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Nov 24 '15 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner I included the seed passing through the digestive tract in my quote. But by "not eat" I don't mean "not swallow", I mean "not consume". $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 24 '15 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel I figured that is what you MEANT, but it could be easily misunderstood, I was trying to clarify that. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Nov 24 '15 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ I'm usually surprised at which ones of my answers get down votes. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Nov 25 '15 at 18:05

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