University of South Florida researchers have discovered a leaf-shaped sea slug called Elysia chlorotica that fuses a plant with an animal. While it produces its own chlorophyll to carry out photosynthesis, the strange creature also steals organelles and genes from the consumed algae. USF Professor Sidney Pierce revealed it at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.
Pierce exposed these slugs to a radioactive tracer to find them making chlorophyll themselves. To ensure this further, he used “slugs that hadn’t fed for at least five months” and weren’t excreting digestive wastes, but the results were unaffected. They still had chloroplasts. However, they borrowed the algal genes for enzymes through a chlorophyll-synthesizing pathway.
Well, zoologist John Zardus isn’t that sure about the findings, since the issue of algae contamination still remains unanswered. Moreover, it is definitely not “the first-known” creature to do so since almost four and a half years back, Japanese scientists had also noticed the same features in a microbe.