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Name: Paul G.
Status: educator
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999-2001 

If the purpose of a fruit is to be eaten for seed dispersal, why are the fruit of chilli plants so hot as to make them inedible to a number of organisms? Doesn't this decrease the effectiveness of the seed's dispersal?

Seeds do not always have to be digested to be dispersed. Plants also contain hormones that cause "rotting" when they are separated for the parent plant. So as the fruit decays, the seeds are dispersed. The fact that they are not palatable also can be protective-they don't get eaten before the seeds are ripe.

van hoeck

The seeds of the chili pepper are damaged in the digestive tracts of most mammals. However, they tend to pass through birds intact. Not coincidentally, the "heat" of the chili fruit is irritating to mammals, but apparently not to birds.

So, the heat acts as a protectant for the seed, and increases its chances of survival.

Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Director
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois

The following looks helpful:

Anthony R. Brach,

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