When Telkwa’s Lori Verhelst brought home a bag of Pink Lady apples from the No Frills in Smithers last week, she was in for a big surprise.
When she pulled one of the apples out of the bag, she found it was precisely half red and half yellow, as if someone had painted it or two different apples had been cut in half and stuck together.
“Of course, I was very surprised,” Verhelst said. “I went to my husband and I said, ‘take a look at this,’ and he said, ‘holy, we better contact the paper.
“We put it on Facebook and some people didn’t believe it was real.”
There have been other reports of similar phenomena. Newspapers in the U.K. have reported on at least three different cases of the same thing with different varieties of apples. They cite experts as saying it is more than a million to one chance that something like this would happen and that it is likely a random genetic mutation.
Dr. Loren Reiseberg, a professor in the agriculture department at University of British Columbia, however, said it could be as simple as one side of the apple being exposed to direct sunlight and the other not, but admitted he could be wrong.
Dr. Andrew Riseman, another UBC expert was much more certain. He called the apple a ‘periclinal chimera,’ which means a body that contains two different genotypes.
“At some point in the fruit’s development, a cell mutated to block red pigment production and it’s daughter cells inherited the mutation leading to the pattern,” he told The Interior News via email.
Chimera is derived from the Greek word khimaira, a mythical fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a serpent.
In medical science, a chimera is an organism with genetic material from two or more sources. Researchers in various parts of the world are experimenting with human-animal chimeras as a means of growing human organs for transplants.
Verhelst put the apple in the refrigerator to preserve it until she could show people how interesting it is. She said she was tempted to try to preserve it somehow, but as of Friday afternoon was planning to go ahead and eat it.
The Pink Lady apple (also known as Cripps Pink) was originally cultivated by Australian researcher John Cripps by crossing a Golden Delicious with a Lady Williams in 1973. They first came to Canada in the 1990s. It was the first apple variety to have a registered trademark name.