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Sea Slug Has Taken Genes from Algae It Eats, Allowing It to Photosynthesize like a Plant

The rich green color of the photosynthesizing sea slug, Elysia chlorotica, helps to camouflage it on the ocean floor. Credit: Patrick Krug

The rich green color of the photosynthesizing sea slug, Elysia chlorotica, helps to camouflage it on the ocean floor. Credit: Patrick Krug

Diana Kenney via Marine Biological Laboratory:

WOODS HOLE, Mass.—How a brilliant-green sea slug manages to live for months at a time “feeding” on sunlight, like a plant, is clarified in a recent study published in The Biological Bulletin.

The authors present the first direct evidence that the emerald green sea slug’s chromosomes have some genes that come from the algae it eats.

These genes help sustain photosynthetic processes inside the slug that provide it with all the food it needs.

Importantly, this is one of the only known examples of functional gene transfer from one multicellular species to another, which is the goal of gene therapy to correct genetically based diseases in humans.

“Is a sea slug a good [biological model] for a human therapy? Probably not.

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Green Sea Slug Is Half Animal, Half Plant

sea slugFrom PRESSTV:

Scientists have identified a sea slug Elysia chlorotica able to synthesize chlorophyll like a plant as the first animal with herbal characteristics.

The animal enjoys genes that allow it to be the first animal identified showing plant features. Those genes help the sea slug make chlorophyll; compared to such an ability, its green color is no longer seen as strange.

Scientists from the University of South Florida have identified this green sea slug as the first animal known to be capable of the feat.

“This could be a fusion of a plant and an animal – that’s just cool,” said invertebrate zoologist John Sardis of the Citadel in Charleston…

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