Seed dispersal

Directed deterrence by capsaicin in chillies


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.

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Figure 1: The effects of capsaicin on consumers and of consumers on chillies.


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Correspondence to Joshua J. Tewksbury.

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Tewksbury, J., Nabhan, G. Directed deterrence by capsaicin in chillies. Nature 412, 403–404 (2001).

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