Brief Communication | Published:

Seed dispersal

Directed deterrence by capsaicin in chillies

Nature volume 412, pages 403404 (26 July 2001) | Download Citation

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Abstract

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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Author information

Author notes

    • Joshua J. Tewksbury

    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

Affiliations

  1. †Center for Sustainable Environments, Northern Arizona University, PO Box 5765, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011-5765, USA

    • Gary P. Nabhan

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joshua J. Tewksbury.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/35086653

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