Seeds are meant to survive digestive systems of the animals that disperse them. Are there seeds meant for a creature, who will digest most of the seeds for nutrition and disperse only a minority of intact seeds?

  • $\begingroup$ Doubtful because it would decrease the probability of that species remaining extant. Typically traits that would drive a species to be less competitive or less demographically fecund are traits that are heavily selected against in a population/community due to competitive pressures. Still, I think it's an interesting question, and anything is possible! It's fun to think about instances in which this could possibly happen and why... $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2017 at 23:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist Not much of a botanist here, but...isn't that essentially what a fruit is (or a nut?)? I mean, I guess the OP is maybe asking for something more specific than that, but it seems like a fruit is essentially taking the role of the digestible part of the seed, and nuts are fruits that some animals bury and disperse and then only eat some of them - of course with the distinction that those dispersed, uneaten nuts never pass a digestive system. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 22, 2017 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ "Meant" is the wrong word to use here. (IMHO, anyway.) But consider that almost all plants produce far more seeds - perhaps hundreds, thousands, or more - than they need to perpetuate themselves. So if some animal is enticed into eating the seeds, digesting most, and dispersing a few (perhaps enclosed in a handy packet of fertilizer), then evolution has created an effective dispersal method. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Feb 22, 2017 at 1:42

1 Answer 1


There's a very interesting case of mutualism between the species Homo sapiens and Oryza Sativa (also Triticum aestivum...). The humans have bred the plants to produce highly nutritious seeds, much greater then non-adapted species, and in return the humans save a small fraction of the seeds and will cultivate the plant for many generations.

It goes further then that in that humans also will protect their mutualistic plant partners from other invasive species and cultivate them, ensuring their mutual survival.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .