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Why Are Mangos So Tasty?


Mintaka
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I  know it sounds like a silly question, but so many fruits seem so delicious, as if they were designed for human pleasure, not just survival.

A tree doesn't need to produce a tasty fruit to  propagate itself, many species just throw their seeds directly into  the wind, and they spread and grow.

Also, if we say that trees produce tasty fruit so that certain animals will eat them and spread their seeds, why do some trees do the opposite and produce

seeds and fruits which are poisonous to animals and birds?  I mean, how, if one way works well, does nature choose an opposite way to do the same thing?

It seems that biologists always have an answer for everything, but to me, eating my tasty mango, and feeling it was designed for me, not just to survive,

but almost to make me swoon with wonder that nature can create something so delicious for me, I can't help feeling there is more to it than meets the eye.

I'm not a creationist, I am an atheist, I am just wondering if there is some kind of intelligent design operating in all this...

 

Cheers for any insights, I haven't been here for a long time,

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Funny: I don't like Mangos for some reason, to me any fruit which has the slightest whiff of greasyness doesn't suit me. I also hate red apples, Granny Smiths are the only enjoyable ones. Tomatoes on the other hand are absolutely fantastic, and I am a bit of a vegetable buff: including liking the stuff everyone hates (broccoli, asparagus, etc).

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What I find extraordinary is why some animals are clever enough to consume rotting fruit as an alcoholic delight.

< /br>

...but back to how the universe just seems contrived. It's not just the fruit, how about the meat: roast chicken, or just plain roast anything, puts a grin on every humans face, even vegans can agree to watching a fire down down as you rotate your best mate over the fire...licking your lips in anticipation for that juicy crunchy crackling.

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When I started to read this I said to myself, "It's obvious! Sugar!"

 

But ErlyRisa's answer actually is an important pointer to the fact that the original question may not be the right one.

 

Plants benefit from being able to store sugar that they live off of in variable climates. That's why there are so many fruit bearing plants, fruit specifically is a food pod for seeds inside them to live off of for initial growth. So that's why they've got sugar.

 

The misstep here is thinking that they have sugar in them for OUR benefit, which the previous paragraph explains isn't the case. Our taste evolved to like fruit because it contains sugar which helps us grow too. ErlyRisa's dislike of mangos shows that we've gotten to the point where genes that say "yuk!" to mangoes don't select out because there are so many other food sources.

 

So the bottom line is, the mangoes are doing just fine whether we like them or not, but it's our own fault that we like them, not the mango.

 

 

If you find an egg in your refrigerator, you're not surprised. You don't say, 'Wow, that's a low-entropy configuration. That's unusual,' because you know that the egg is not alone in the universe. It came out of a chicken, which is part of a farm, which is part of the biosphere, etc., etc. But with the universe, we don't have that appeal to make, :phones:

Buffy

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Thanks very much for your replies, I understand that the fruit needs to be sugary and feed the seed, but taste and sugary is not the same.  Any simple sugars would have been enough for the plant or tree, but all these exotic fruits are producing various tastes designed to please a human palate. :-)  They are much more than just "sugary" aren't they?  And if being tasty ensures their survival by being eaten, why do other plants and trees produce fruits and berries which are poisonous? If tastiness is the guarantee of survival, shouldn't all berries and fruits be tasty and edible? I know you are going to tell me that nature can use opposite techniques to reach the same purpose? Ok...I give up :-)

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Oh the main recommendation I'd make is to be very careful about that phrase you use "simple sugar": Simple to a chemist is the form of sugar that is pure and has the least number of molecular elements. That's not what Mother Nature stumbles upon on her random evolutionary walk, and is precisely why there are so darned many different kinds of sugar.

 

What's so amazing about evolution is indeed that it stumbles into odd combinations of things that ultimately "work" (that is, they result in being more successful in specific environments). That's why it's not pure, simple sugar, it's often more complex ones with all kinds of "flavors"--which for the plants themselves are succeeding for them because those flavors have other nutritional values. For the plants it's actually really difficult to go from a complex accidental amalgam to a "pure, simple" form with no extraneous flavor junk.

 

So where you go astray in your analysis is in trying to find some motivation in the fruit trees to make them tasty when they got there quite accidentally, BUT there is an interesting aspect of this where your idea does come into play: once humans have found they're tasty, then the humans can actually selectively breed the plants to favor those that taste better. At that point what determines the "survival of the fittest" is not the plant choosing to have tasty fruit but rather the human farmer's actually selectively planting the tastier ones.

 

This happens even before farming when you think about why plants succeed that do have tasty and edible parts: Success is often dependent upon being able to cover more ground and get to places where conditions are better. If a plant's seed fruit tastes bad, it'll just fall to the ground and offspring will only grow right where it's parents did. If it tastes good though, animals will eat it and,. uh "carry" it to places long distances away (details of that operation are left as an exercise for the reader).

 

Lots of interesting scenarios here, and it's fun to work them through, but there's always logic and a mechanism for how it works.

 

 

When she was a small girl, Amanda hid a ticking clock in an old, rotten tree trunk. It drove woodpeckers crazy. Ignoring tasty bugs all around them, they just about beat their brains out trying to get at the clock. Years later, Amanda used the woodpecker experiment as a model for understanding capitalism, Communism, Christianity, and all other systems that traffic in future rewards rather than in present realities, :phones:

Buffy

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I can't find the national geographic documentary I saw once, but it pertains to your title question. Essentially the documentary covered nutrition from an evolutionary standpoint; out on the plains of Africa, food was scarce, and so the human body required high-energy sustenance to make it from meal to meal. Sugar was and is a main source of this. But like in all nature, some things are poisonous to us. The human taste bud evolved to detect what's beneficial (the best foods for our bodies) and to detect and forcibly reject foods that are bad (say eating a poisonous mushroom). If something tastes good, sweet, etc, it's essentially your body saying that's what's good for you.

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Those poor woodpeckers...it makes me want to cry, that they didn't have their own watches; Too see that they are wasting away pecking at Amandas clok. Chickens seem todo the same, they peck at anything out of what seems to be curiosity: Though they do have the knowledgeable option to go and actually eat real food from the garden/dispenser.

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I  know it sounds like a silly question, but so many fruits seem so delicious, as if they were designed for human pleasure, not just survival. A tree doesn't need to produce a tasty fruit to  propagate itself, many species just throw their seeds directly into  the wind, and they spread and grow.

The means of seed dispersal among trees is indeed widely variable. None of them however are 'designed'.

 

Also, if we say that trees produce tasty fruit so that certain animals will eat them and spread their seeds, why do some trees do the opposite and produce seeds and fruits which are poisonous to animals and birds?  I mean, how, if one way works well, does nature choose an opposite way to do the same thing?

Random mutation.

 

It seems that biologists always have an answer for everything, but to me, eating my tasty mango, and feeling it was designed for me, not just to survive, but almost to make me swoon with wonder that nature can create something so delicious for me, I can't help feeling there is more to it than meets the eye.

Mangos have been cultivated for 1,000's of years*. Like apples, not all varieties have the same sweetness or taste. It is human intervention in cultivating mangos that makes them so delicious for you. The following article has a section on the chemicals that give different mangos their distinctive 'mango' taste.

*Mangos @ Wiki

 

I'm not a creationist, I am an atheist, I am just wondering if there is some kind of intelligent design operating in all this...

Only human intelligence as noted above.

 

Cheers for any insights, I haven't been here for a long time,

  :partycheers: You might enjoy reading The Botany of Desire. It covers the relationship between humans and potatoes, tulips, apples, and marijuana. >> The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

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I remember from my reading of Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape the idea that nearly all of the primates and all of the great apes, including us, like and seek out sweet-tasting food because, in the forest habitats where most of our common ancestors’ evolution occurred, most sweet-tasking foods had high nutritional value, and were non-poisonous, while foods with other tastes were more often less nutritious and more likely to be poisonous. We smart apes have cultivated and selectively bread fruits that are even sweeter than our primordial favorites, and even make “fake fruits” candy out of natural and artificial sweeteners (such as sugar cane, beets, corn, saccharin and aspartame) and fats.

 

So the evolutionary biological answer to “why are mangos so tasty” is that the ancient primates that didn’t like such tastes didn’t thrive as well as our ones that did, so didn’t thrive, so are not our, or likely any presently living species’, ancestors.

 

Over long periods, our taste sensing organs nerves, and brain structures changed to recognize “sweet” as “good”. This is somewhat over-simplified, as other textures and tastes are involved in the “tastes good” perception we share with our primate cousins.

 

Because unlike these cousins, we humans are complicated, language-using apes, we enjoy eating many foods that aren’t sweet-good (and even a few that are actually mild to moderate poisons), which the other great apes don’t, but I think this is in most cases a “cultural overlay”, not a physically innate, evolved trait.

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One thing about ripe mango's is that the sugar ferments when they go rotten. This can lead to interesting situations where animals get very drunk from feeding on sweet things that give them something extra.

 

A friend had a mango tree in his back yard and one season he just raked all of the rotting mango's into his compost heap. After a week he spent several days damping the compost heap down with water as it started to smoke and was in danger of igniting! 

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