Requested by @affectos
Beer, wine, vodka and Shuckle. What does this lovable bug pokémon have in common with alcoholic beverages? Well, as the pokédex tells us–Shuckle produces them.
Shuckle stores berries inside its shell, and when it eats them, the berries “mix with its body fluids” and ferment. Fermentation is simply a process of getting energy: much like photosynthesis, or respiration. Humans and most animals, of course, require oxygen to breathe and live, to supply energy to our muscles, and so on. But not everything does: many bacteria and fungi are classified as anaerobic, which means they don’t need oxygen to survive. At all.
Instead, anaerobic organisms, called anaerobes, rely on other processes to get energy. One of these processes is fermentation. Specifically, alcohol fermentation occurs when sugar, such as glucose, is split up into alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide. This releases energy in the process, which creatures can use for their own needs.
In alcohol production, the fungus yeast is typically the creature that breaks down these sugar molecules. How does it break down? Yeasts produce enzymes called zymase. Enzymes are chemicals that creature can produce and use to activate or speed up chemical reactions. Butterflies, for example, use enzymes inside of their cocoon to break down their caterpillar form and emerge a butterfly. Carnivorous plants, like Victreebel or Carnivine, digest their prey using enzymes. In humans, the enzyme “lactase” makes it possible to digest dairy products, which is why lactose intolerant people who can’t produce lactase can’t digest milk.
So yeast use the enzyme zymase to break apart sugar molecules into alcohol and carbon dioxide, giving itself energy in the process, with alcohol as a byproduct. These enzymes, zymase, are the “body fluids” in Shuckle’s pokédex entry: the fluid that mixes with the berries it stores to ferment them.
What does this tell us about Shuckle? Well, first of all, it’s very likely that Shuckle is anaerobic, which means it doesn’t need to breathe oxygen to survive. Instead, it gets its energy from turning berries into alcohol, like yeast does through fermentation. The berries doubling as food is just an added bonus. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that Shuckle can’t breathe and use oxygen, only that it doesn’t need to. Respiration is an extremely efficient method of getting energy, and many yeasts use their own version or respiration when oxygen is available, too. So for Shuckle, if it’s at high altitudes, inside its shell, in space, or elsewhere where there isn’t much oxygen available, fermentation can kick in. It’s especially useful for hiding inside its shell. In a small, closed space like that oxygen could run out quickly, so by gaining energy through fermentation, it doesn’t need to breathe while hiding in its shell.
Berries, grapes, and fruit when fermented are classified as wine. Fruits contain the sugar fructose, which is broken down into glucose to ferment. Wheat and barely contain the sugar maltose, which can also be broken down into glucose, and ferments into beer. Vodka uses potatoes, bourbon uses corn, and so on. Stronger spirits, like vodka, have to be distilled after they are fermented: essentially filtered, so that mainly alcohol remains.
Since Shuckle uses berries, it produces wine. It’s possible that Shuckle may be able to use wheat to make beer as well, but it might not want to. Shuckle might not be able to break down maltose as easily or at all like it can fructose, making wheat a less efficient energy source.