Are there any fruits that have seeds which can survive the digestive entirety of an animal's digestive system and remain germinable once passed on in animal excrement?

Perhaps this is the primary function of all seeded fruits and I'm just fundamentally unaware of the intended biological processes. If so, then why do poisonous seeded fruits exist?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Yes, many. A common example is the fruits containing capsaicin (e.g., hot peppers): this compound is an irritant to mammals but does not affect birds. This adaptation seems to have evolved to discourage consumption of the fruit by mammals, whose digestive systems damage the seeds, and to encourage consumption instead by birds, which distribute the seeds effectively. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 16:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Seeing as the main premise of your question is completely wrong (meaning that loads if not all fruit can survive the digestive system of an animal), I am voting to close as unclear. Please do some research (just glance through a wikipedia page or something) and ask something a bit more specific. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @terdon biology.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2961/… $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ @canadianer yes, but my vote wasn't because the premise was wrong but because, given that the premise was wrong, the question is unclear. I mean, the question in the title can be answered by "Yes, most of them" but I don't think that's very interesting to the OP. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ That's really kind of the point of having fruit in the first place. Why would the plant waste valuable nutrients just to feed animals? That doesn't mean that all fruit seeds survive the digestion of all different kinds of animals, of course, but the whole purpose of a fruit is to be eaten or carried (a lot rarer) by animals for dispersion. $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 14:57

1 Answer 1


Yep, almost all fleshy fruits rely on being eaten - even some non-flowering plants like juniper bushes and yew trees do too. The process works like this:

  1. Animal eats fruit
  2. Animal digests fruit except for the seeds, which are designed to survive the process
  3. Animal deposits seeds in its excrement.
  4. Seeds grow, now a long distance from their parent and with a free helping of manure to get them started in life.

To answer your confusion about toxic fruit, let's consider holly berries.

A bird can eat holly fruit with impunity, while a human or a horse would end up seriously ill. This is because birds tend to swallow their food whole - this combines with their ability to fly makes them prime vehicles for seed dispersal, while humans and horses thoroughly chew their food, which risks damaging the seeds, rendering them useless.

To this end, holly fruits are packed with toxins that are harmless to birds but cause anything else severe discomfort, discouraging them from trying that again.

  • $\begingroup$ reagrding your second last paragraph: Viscum would be another prominent example.. $\endgroup$
    – iLuvLogix
    Commented May 22 at 14:20

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