Why did hot peppers evolve?

I was just reading some of the posts in the recent "cats?" thread. The discussion turned to hot pepper and it reminded me of something I have been wondering about.
Plants produce fruit for only one reason, right? To attract an animal to eat it and carry the seeds away to new locations. So why did hot peppers evolve to be so hot? It's almost like there must be an advantage to the plant to repel animals and keep the seeds from spreading. Well, that can't be. Is there an animal that is attracted to the hotness? I think I remember that birds aren't affected by hot peppers. Is that the key to my little mystery?
Steve
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Maybe it's like this - the pepper growing in a particular location needs to spread its seed, but not too far for risk that soil conditions will change with distance. So, an animal comes by and bites the pepper and shakes its head once it senses the taste - the pepper/seeds get flung around. That's just my out-of-da-box idea... Or, maybe it's as you say - birds don't sense it and poop the seeds here and there. If birds are bothered, it's possible the pepper just reproduces on a local basis without the need to spread much. ??? botanists out there ???
Steve wrote:

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"Researchers think that the reason why chiles are pungent is an evolutionary depelopment to keep mammals from eating the chiles because mammals digestion system destroys the seeds. Capsaicin doesn't has the same influence on birds whose digestion system doesn't destroy the seeds. The seeds therefore passes unhindered and the birds are spreading the seeds widely securing the survival of the chile plants." http://miljokemi.dk/chili/chilikemi.php?language=uk
--
Morten http://miljokemi.dk
Chile growing with forum http://miljokemi.dk/chili
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Morten Bjergstrψm wrote:

Thanks to all who gave a reply. I guess this is the most reasonable answer to my mind. There are many fruits that attract mammals and their seeds survive the trip through the digestive system. Maybe pepper seeds can't survive if eaten by a mammal and so developed this alternate plan. My first thought was that there are so many birds that are seed eaters that they must be able to digest seeds very well. If not, we wouldn't be attracting many birds to our winter bird feeders. On the other hand, when birds eat fruits such as Strawberries, I do believe the seeds survive. I've never seen a bird eat a pepper but I assume in their native habitat, there are birds that eat them.
Steve
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Hence the name Bird Peppers for some of the wild types.
Now, more importantly, why did humans start eating them???
John!
Steve wrote:

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I have a constant competition with the local mockingbinds (Central Texas) over which one of us will get the fruits of the wild chile pequins growing around my property. They (the mockingbirds) will patiently pluck and devour dozens of ripe fruit from a plant, then fly to the next to select their next course. FWIW they also have a great fondness for cherry tomatoes.
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B.Server wrote:

Thanks. I live far too far north to have any thing in the way of peppers growing wild. I'm also too far north for Mockingbirds to be common, if they ever come here at all. I remember them well from when I was growing up in Ohio.
Steve (in the Adirondacks of northern NY)
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in article 7NWdnRUS3s5HSy snipped-for-privacy@adelphia.com, Steve at snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote on 6/17/05 6:57 AM:

Evolve? It must be intelligent design! After all, an anthropomorphic God enjoys a good laugh when someone is tricked into eating one of those bitty black things as well as the next guy.
Bill
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Ahh, Itelligent designer theory. I see someone is read up

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The duck-billed platypus is a dead giveaway, even more so than the babelfish.
Gary Woods AKA K2AHC- PGP key on request, or at home.earthlink.net/~garygarlic Zone 5/6 in upstate New York, 1420' elevation. NY WO G
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Steve wrote:

I'm an animal and I'm attracted to chiles. Does that count?
David
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Maybe you are secretly a bird :D
~REZ~
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http://www.chilepepperinstitute.org/FAQ.htm
And lots more too!
John!
Steve wrote:

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Alls it takes is a few humans eating hot peppers and putting the see
reamins out in the compost pile or in the trash and there you have nice spread of seeds. THen the humans also travel with the hot pepper and when they go bad they toss them out and the seeds have a new plac to be. Also when the peppers go bad on the vine and drop to the ground the can sprout and move across the land by the next crop dropping peppers Another theory is after the peppers drop and there is a nice rain t wash seeds to another place, that can work too!
Steve Wrote:

-- Maryc
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Steve wrote:

And how did they manage to be both hot and harmless? Don't try eating poison ivy.
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