The emerald sea slug uses algae genes to live like a plant

February 5, 2015 12:05 PM

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Sea slugs have made news headlines a lot lately. More interesting perhaps than their terrestrial counterparts, and much more colorful, the Emerald Sea Slug, Elysia chlorotica, derives more than nutrients out of its food. Eating a diet primarily of algae, this nudibranch extracts the gene from algae in order to carry out the process of photosynthesis, during which the sea slug is able to derive all of its energy from the sun for months at a time.

The Marine Biological Laboratory, using advanced imaging, was able to locate a gene found in algae known as Vaucheria litorea, sticking to an Emerald Sea Slug chromosome. Not only does the slug take this gene – but also chloroplasts – the powerhouses of cells that are critical in carrying out photos...

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