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Author Topic:   Why do apples taste good?
taylor_31
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 86
From: Oklahoma!
Joined: 05-14-2007


Message 1 of 41 (402781)
05-29-2007 11:24 PM


I was wondering why so many different species - including apples, oranges, pickles, and pears - taste so good. Why would they evolve that way?

What survival benefit would "tastiness" bestow? I can think of some hypothetical explanations:

1) The species somehow benefited from an organism that was eating it, or

2) The species was simply trying to protect its seeds, and accidently evolved tastiness, or

3) The tastiness is a product of artificial selection over human history.

I'm sure you science-minded people have an answer ;). Thanks for any help!!


Replies to this message:
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 Message 9 by crashfrog, posted 05-30-2007 10:14 AM taylor_31 has responded
 Message 10 by Dr Adequate, posted 05-30-2007 10:34 AM taylor_31 has responded
 Message 11 by anastasia, posted 05-30-2007 11:32 AM taylor_31 has not yet responded
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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3879
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Message 2 of 41 (402803)
05-30-2007 12:43 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
dwise1
Member
Posts: 3405
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 8.5


Message 3 of 41 (402807)
05-30-2007 1:13 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
05-29-2007 11:24 PM


With all due respect, what is your source for this "how did food evolve?" line. Years ago I saw another, local (ie, nowhere near OK), creationist use it in his newsletter -- duly unimpressed, I could only shake my head over how turned around the reasoning was. For a while, a lot of creationists "independently" tried to pull a Pascal's Wager couched as an auto insurance analogy (see my description of this experience at http://members.aol.com/dwise1/cre_ev/wager.html, which indicated to me that some preacher or televangelist had used it in a sermon. Similarly, this food-evolution cropping up again tells me that it must be in some creationist's writings somewhere.

OK, I would say that the reasoning is turned around, because whether or nor some food tastes good depends on the one doing the tasting. So it's more a question of why certain foods taste good to us. And that depends on what kinds of foods we're suited to eating, what foods contain the nutrients that we need.

At the same time, plants could exploit (not consciously, of course) the eating habits of native animals by providing those nutrients around their seeds so that those animals would partake and then spread those seeds. Or offer nectar to attract insects that will then help transport pollen to other flowers -- the high death rate we're currently experiencing among bees is a threat to our agriculture for this reason.

And, of course, once we domesticate a plant then we control its breeding in order to enhance those traits that we want.

PS
I just caught this. "pickles". Pickles? OK, show me a "pickle plant". Have you ever seen one? I doubt that very much, since it doesn't exist. A pickle is a cucumber that has undergone a human-performed process. Pickles never evolved; they are made. It would be like asking why an apple pie would have evolved to taste good.

Edited by dwise1, : postscript and wager link

Edited by dwise1, : Oops. Just moved the postscript down to where it belongs.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by taylor_31, posted 05-29-2007 11:24 PM taylor_31 has responded

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Taz
Member (Idle past 1399 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 4 of 41 (402810)
05-30-2007 1:30 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
05-29-2007 11:24 PM


This is a joke, right?

No, really, this is a joke, right? You seriously can't think of a reason why some plants have evolved to have edible fruits? Even my 10 year old niece know the answer to this one.

Is this a joke?

Last time I checked, they teach this kind of stuff in grade school.

Edited by Tazmanian Devil, : No reason given.



We are BOG. Resistance is voltage over current.

Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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iceage 
Suspended Member (Idle past 4023 days)
Posts: 1024
From: Pacific Northwest
Joined: 09-08-2003


Message 5 of 41 (402811)
05-30-2007 2:16 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Taz
05-30-2007 1:30 AM


Guacamole
No need to be condescending Taz....

Taylor

A while ago I hiking on a trail here in North Idaho. I came across a pile of horse crap and growing out of the pile of horse crap was a fine healthy crop of Spotted Knapweed, an invasive noxious weed that is foreign to the area. I wish I had a camera since a picture would have been worth a thousand words. That in a nut shell :) is the reason behind edible fruits and seeds - dispersion.

An interesting side point on this topic, is that I recently read an article, highlighting the fact that Avocado fruit was poisonous and undesirable to birds.

Some have theorized that avocado's had originally adapted to a symbiotic relationship with now extinct large mammals such the giant ground sloth. These giant mammals could swallow and pass the massive pits and disperse the seeds far and wide. However, since the seeds were large, bird eating the fruit were largely destructive, so Avocado evolved chemicals that were harmless to sloths but toxic to birds.


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 14816
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 6 of 41 (402821)
05-30-2007 6:54 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
05-29-2007 11:24 PM


To summarise it, all three are true to some extent.

The initial edibility was probably due to chance.

This was enhanced by natural selection - the seeds can pass through the gut and be deposited far away (with a nice dollop of fertiliser).

In the case of almost all modern fruit this has been further enhanced by human intervention (artificial selection, cross-breeding etc.)


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Coragyps
Member
Posts: 5381
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002
Member Rating: 8.4


Message 7 of 41 (402823)
05-30-2007 7:30 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by PaulK
05-30-2007 6:54 AM


This was enhanced by natural selection - the seeds can pass through the gut and be deposited far away (with a nice dollop of fertiliser).

And along thse lines, and similarly to avocados' "strategy:" birds don't have taste receptors for capsaicin, the hot stuff in chili peppers. Peppers have small, sort-of-fragile seeds. And birds don't have grinding teeth. Mammals sometimes do have grinding teeth, but humans are the only mammals that will willingly eat hot peppers - because we cook them, I suppose.

Guess how pepper seeds get dispersed in the wild? And some peppers even ripen to bright colors to let birds know "these seeds are ready for transport!"


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16093
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 9.0


Message 8 of 41 (402831)
05-30-2007 9:08 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by dwise1
05-30-2007 1:13 AM


Tazmanian Devil writes:

No, really, this is a joke, right? You seriously can't think of a reason why some plants have evolved to have edible fruits?

Obviously he can.

dwise1 writes:

Similarly, this food-evolution cropping up again tells me that it must be in some creationist's writings somewhere.

If you are the only evolutionist in the world who hasn't seen Kirk Cameron's piece on "Bananas: The Atheist's Worst Nightmare", I suggest you have a look. This has achieved cult status amongst fans of pseudoscience.

On the other hand, your belicose assumption that taylor31 is a creationist is unreasonable. It's a fair question. I think this is another guy like ogon who's trying to fill in gaps in his knowledge; and if this is a result of creationists' attempts to manufacture controversy, then creationists have inadvertently done science a favor.

There's no reason to suppose that everyone asking questions about evolution is a creationist. They might just be, y'know, interested in the answer.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 9 of 41 (402844)
05-30-2007 10:14 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
05-29-2007 11:24 PM


I was wondering why so many different species - including apples, oranges, pickles, and pears - taste so good.

Did they evolve to taste good? Or did our sense of taste evolve to prefer nutritive foods over, say, dirt and rocks?

Fruits are a deceptive strategy by plants to ensure seed dispersal - you eat the apple and either toss away the core or eat it (some folks do) and the seeds pass through your gut. (They have a hard, undigestible shell that protects them.) The bonus there is that the seed is also fertilized by your manure.

But it's a strategy that benefits you, too, because fruits are full of the sugars you need to survive. And your body evolved to "reward" you when you consume the foods it thinks it needs.

Of course, the foods your body thinks it needs are different than the foods a human being living in civilization needs, because your body is operating from the assumption that it may never eat again. Your body is always prepared to enter a period of starvation, so you're always being rewarded for foods that would be a good "last meal." If you were going on a 2-week fast, what would you want your last meal to be? A cheeseburger and a milkshake, or a salad and an iced tea? The former has a lot more of the fats, starches, and sugars that your body can store up to tide you over.

Your body rewards you with pleasure for eating foods that prepare you for starvation. Of course, in a first-world civilization, you almost never starve except on purpose, which explains the problems a lot of people have with weight.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by taylor_31, posted 05-29-2007 11:24 PM taylor_31 has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by taylor_31, posted 05-30-2007 1:51 PM crashfrog has responded

  
Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16093
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 9.0


Message 10 of 41 (402849)
05-30-2007 10:34 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
05-29-2007 11:24 PM


I was wondering why so many different species - including apples, oranges, pickles, and pears - taste so good. Why would they evolve that way?
What survival benefit would "tastiness" bestow? I can think of some hypothetical explanations:

1) The species somehow benefited from an organism that was eating it, or

2) The species was simply trying to protect its seeds, and accidently evolved tastiness, or

3) The tastiness is a product of artificial selection over human history.

I think we can rule out option 2 --- clearly having tasty fruit makes it more likely that the seeds will be eaten.

Option 1 is correct. Animals eat fruit seeds and all, and then seeds get dispersed --- each with its own little dollop of fertiliser. This is why you get so many tomato plants growning along railway lines --- humans eat tomatos seeds and all.

Option 3 is also correct --- we have bred fruit systematically for flavor.

However, you should also consider option 4, which you haven't mentioned. Consider the fact that meat taste good to us; or that we like salt on our food. In the case of meat, the animal gains no benefit from being eaten, and salt, of course, cannot evolve.

What you have to remember is that "tasting good" is not an intrinsic property of a foodstuff --- it's an interaction between the food and the organism eating it. We evolved so that things which are nutritious taste good to us.

---

In the case of fruit, the process seems to have gone like this.

* Early plants produced single-cell offspring (there are still some plants which do this).

* Natural selection favored plants which endowed their offspring with a store of nutrition for early growth --- seeds, in other words.

* This meant that natural selection favored animals which found seeds tasty and ate them thus availing themselves of the nutrients in them. (Of course, some browsing animals would just eat the seeds anyway along with the whole plant.)

* This meant that natural selection favored plants which produced tougher seeds which were more likely to survive the passage through the gut of an animal.

* Seeds which did survive this process were dispersed, each with their own supply of animal fertiliser.

* This meant that there was then a selective advantage to these plants having their seeds eaten. The plants which produced the best-flavored, the most brightly colored, and the most nutritious seed cases (fruit) were favored over other plants and naturaly selected for.

* Finally, humans used artificial selection to produce plants with bigger and tastier fruit. We also, by an ironic twist, prefer seedless fruit which has to be propagated by vegetative cloning (e.g. the banana).


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by taylor_31, posted 05-29-2007 11:24 PM taylor_31 has responded

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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4061 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 11 of 41 (402858)
05-30-2007 11:32 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
05-29-2007 11:24 PM


Dear taylor_31,

In addition to the dispersion of seeds caused by consumption of edible fruits, many fruits when falling to the ground provide a ready niche of decomposing material for the new seedling to be nourished from.

Also, if you research most edible fruits and veggies, you will find that often they did not taste very good intially, but have been hybridized for years to produce the big, sweet fruits we see today. There are many fruits which do not taste good: crabapples, wild rose hips, wild strawberries and mulberries, etc. in this area, which are still providing the same function for the plant.


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 Message 1 by taylor_31, posted 05-29-2007 11:24 PM taylor_31 has not yet responded

    
Taz
Member (Idle past 1399 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 12 of 41 (402859)
05-30-2007 11:39 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Dr Adequate
05-30-2007 9:08 AM


First of all, my apology for the previous post. I was bitten by the anger bug last night.

It's a fair question.

Is it really?

Back to my niece. One time I was babysitting her after school. We started talking about stuff. It turned out that she had learned that animal eat fruit and inadvertantly deposit the seeds around. This is a 10 year old kid in grade school we're talking about.

It's not that I think every question about evolution means creationist propaganda. It's just that some of these questions really really make me think it's creationist attempt to spark up controversy. Why? Because these are the most obvious of the obvious stuff. Like I said, it's stuff that they teach in grade school. In fact, right now at this moment I am vaguely remembering learning about this in grade school, and it was a christian school I went to.

Another reason is the only time I've ever seen people not know this very common knowledge stuff is when they are creationists thinking they've stumbled onto something that would disprove evolution for good.

You eat an apple. Either you crap out the seeds or you throw away the core somewhere else far away from the mother tree. It doesn't take that much mental effort to then come up with the idea that the more spread out the seeds are the better for the genes of the individual because of less competition for resources with the mother tree. Also more chances of survival of the "family" gene. You don't need a college biology degree. Grade school stuff.



We are BOG. Resistance is voltage over current.

Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


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taylor_31
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 86
From: Oklahoma!
Joined: 05-14-2007


Message 13 of 41 (402874)
05-30-2007 1:44 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by dwise1
05-30-2007 1:13 AM


dwise1 writes:

With all due respect, what is your source for this "how did food evolve?" line. Years ago I saw another, local (ie, nowhere near OK), creationist use it in his newsletter

Now that I think of it, I did read a creationist article about a year ago asking this same question. Perhaps this was where the question was "planted" in my mind.

Honestly, the question was almost an off-the-cuff remark; I've been eating loads of apples lately and I started to wonder about the evolution of taste. I thought of some guesses and proceeded to ask for this forum's input, finding that you guys are very intelligent and helpful.

Admittedly, I could have looked up the answer via Google Scholar or something, but I find that this forum is more one-on-one. I'm almost dyslexic in my learning methods, so I definitely favor education via direct contact versus reading an encyclopedia article.

dwise1 writes:

I just caught this. "pickles". Pickles? OK, show me a "pickle plant". Have you ever seen one? I doubt that very much, since it doesn't exist.

Whoops :o. But I think it's still relevant, is it not? I mean, they are the product of artificial selection. I think that falls under my "guesses".


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taylor_31
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 86
From: Oklahoma!
Joined: 05-14-2007


Message 14 of 41 (402875)
05-30-2007 1:51 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by crashfrog
05-30-2007 10:14 AM


crashfrog writes:

Your body is always prepared to enter a period of starvation, so you're always being rewarded for foods that would be a good "last meal." If you were going on a 2-week fast, what would you want your last meal to be? A cheeseburger and a milkshake, or a salad and an iced tea?

This reminds me of something my dad says.

He claims when his body is thirsty, it tells him to drink water. When his body is tired, it tells him to sleep. In addition, when his body is hungry, it tells him to eat. His body doesn't tell him to eat salad; instead, it tells him to eat ice cream or something similar.

That is how he justifies his eating habits. Needless to say, my dad isn't a health freak like myself or my mom. I can't wait to tell him your explanation! :p

Edited by taylor_31, : No reason given.


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taylor_31
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 86
From: Oklahoma!
Joined: 05-14-2007


Message 15 of 41 (402878)
05-30-2007 2:25 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Taz
05-30-2007 11:39 AM


Tazmanian Devil writes:

First of all, my apology for the previous post. I was bitten by the anger bug last night.

We're all angry at one point or another, so don't worry about it :).

Tazmanian Devil writes:

It's just that some of these questions really really make me think it's creationist attempt to spark up controversy.

I understand your concerns, but I'm really not a creationist. Though it might be to my utter embarrassment, this was a sincere question.

Tazmanian Devil writes:

Like I said, it's stuff that they teach in grade school. In fact, right now at this moment I am vaguely remembering learning about this in grade school, and it was a christian school I went to.

Consider yourself fortunate, because I never learned anything about the mechanics of evolution at my school. Sure, we read the chapter and filled out the worksheets, but those were simply excuses to pass the class; the class's real purpose was to discuss football and movies.

I hope you don't take this as an excuse for my woeful ignorance. In these times, there isn't a good excuse for ignorance, and I'm trying to remedy my own. EvC is one of my favorite ways to do that, whether by reading threads or by asking questions.

Tazmanian Devil writes:

You don't need a college biology degree. Grade school stuff.

Biology was never my strong suit, and I have a lot of trouble with trying to understand it. However, I think that we all have areas where we are terribly undereducated, and it's up to ourselves to educate those areas.

I would apologize for my ignorance/stupidity, but I can't bend over that far; instead, I'll simply say that I'll try harder.


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