New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute last week certified the Bhut Jolokia, or "ghost chili," from India as the hottest ever tested. By comparison, most pepper sprays come in at 2 to 5 million SHUs.
In 2005, Michael and Joy Michaud of Dorset, England, shattered the Scoville record with the Dorset Naga, cultivated from a Bangladeshi pepper; it was potent enough for handlers to require gloves.
At more than 60 times the spiciness of a jalapeņo, the Red Savina habanero, developed in California, is twice as hot as other habaneros and was until recently considered the world's hottest chili.
Perry calls the rocoto pepper, at left, a "modern variety" of the Capsicum pubescens identified by her team. The ancient chilies likely spiced up maize and root stew but were probably no hotter than cayenne peppers.