- Pineapples produce a protein called bromelain, which can break down other proteins into acids.
- Pineapples can only eat small insects since they are not built to trap larger animals.
- The process of eating insects is very slow so it cannot be compared to actual carnivorous plants.
Pineapples are tropical plants whose fruit, also called a pineapple, is edible. It is a fruit well known and adored all over the world, but many might not know that it is native to South America. Pineapples have been harvested there for many centuries. Another unknown fact about pineapples is that they are carnivorous, meaning that they can eat and digest animal meat.
However, the fact that they can do so does not make them really carnivorous; they will not eat humans. But they can feast on flies and other kinds of smaller insects.
Why Can Pineapples Eat Meat
The reason pineapples are able to eat animal meat is due to an enzyme that can be found on the plant. It is called bromelain, and it is all over the stem, the leaves, and in the pineapple fruit itself. Bromelain is a special kind of protein that can break down other proteins into acids, more precisely animal proteins into amino acids. We call this kind of protein a proteolytic protein. Scientists are still researching this protein, and some believe that it could be used to break down tissue medically.
Despite being able to eat animals, pineapples are not really designed to do so, so it never happens. First of all, the pineapple plant has no way to trap the animal. Its leaves are designed in a way that allows them to catch water, so sometimes an ant or a fly or a similar small insect can get trapped there. Once trapped, the insects usually start chewing on the leaf to rescue themselves. However, when they chew the leaf, bromelain gets released from the plant to the water that the plant has stored. It dissolves into the water, and then the combination of water and bromelain starts dissolving the trapped animal.
The Process Of Consuming Animals
The animal gets dissolved into amino acids, which are then moved back into the plant together with the water. This process is painfully slow, which is why we cannot consider the pineapple a true carnivorous plant. Real carnivorous plants have much more effective ways of dealing with their prey and do it much faster. The process of turning proteins from animals serves as just that - an extra source of protein. It really cannot be considered a real source of food for them, but it does not require large amounts of energy, so it is convenient.
The animals consumed by pineapples this way can also serve as a source of nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be helpful for pineapple plants in the wild. The ones that are cultivated can get these by being fertilized. An interesting thing to point out is that eating the bromelain with pineapples actually affects humans. While eating pineapples, the bromelain breaks down proteins on our tongue, so it feels sore after eating a lot. This occurs only while eating fresh pineapples since the canned ones are heated, and that reduces the bromelain.
That is it when it comes to pineapples' ability to eat animals. It should not be a concern to humans unless we eat too many fresh pineapples and end up with a sore tongue.