Habitat: along the east coast of the United States
Status: Not evaluated
It’s even shaped like a leaf! Here’s what the article from the New Scientist had to say:
“Elysia chlorotica is a lurid green sea slug, with a gelatinous leaf-shaped body, that lives along the Atlantic seaboard of the US. What sets it apart from most other sea slugs is its ability to run on solar power.
Mary Rumpho of the University of Maine, is an expert on E. chlorotica and has now discovered how the sea slug gets this ability: it photosynthesises with genes “stolen” from the algae it eats.
She has known for some time that E. chlorotica acquires chloroplasts – the green cellular objects that allow plant cells to convert sunlight into energy – from the algae it eats, and stores them in the cells that line its gut.
Young E. chlorotica fed with algae for two weeks, could survive for the rest of their year-long lives without eating, Rumpho found in earlier work.
…the gene [for algal photosynthesis] is taken into its cells as along with the chloroplasts. The genes are then incorporated into the sea slug’s own DNA, allowing the animal to produce the necessary proteins for the stolen chloroplasts to continue working.”
Scientists are now looking into how it might be possible for HUMANS to be able to photosynthesize using this method! How crazy would that be?? Though it doesn’t look like it’s going to be possible, since our digestive tract is so strong it just chews stuff like genes right up.