Brief Communications

Nature 412, 403-404 (26 July 2001) | doi:10.1038/35086653

Seed dispersal: Directed deterrence by capsaicin in chillies

Joshua J. Tewksbury1 & Gary P. Nabhan2

The primary function of ripe, fleshy fruit is to facilitate seed dispersal by attracting consumers1, 2, yet many fruits contain unpleasant-tasting chemicals that deter consumption by vertebrates3. Here we investigate this paradox in the chilli (Capsicum) and find that capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the fruit's peppery heat4, selectively discourages vertebrate predators without deterring more effective seed dispersers.

  1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812, USA
    Present address: Department of Zoology, Box 118525, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-8525, USA
  2. Center for Sustainable Environments, Northern Arizona University, PO Box 5765, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011-5765, USA

Correspondence to: Joshua J. Tewksbury1 e-mail: Email: jtewksbury@zoo.ufl.edu