This sea slug steals plant genes to live like a leaf

February 5, 2015 4:13 PM

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The brilliant green sea slug Elysia chloroctica doesn't just look like the leaf of a plant: It functions like one, too. When it's supper time, the slug uses chloroplasts taken from local algae to photosynthesize for itself. That's not news: Scientists have known about the chloroplast theft since the 1970s. But it turns out that the slug takes more than just the sunlight-processing chloroplasts. It also steals the algae genes it needs to maintain those food-factories long after the crime is committed.

"It's been known for a long time that this particular group of sea slugs has a symbiotic relationship with chloroplasts they get from the algae they eat," said study co-author Sidney K. Pierce, an emeritus professor at University of South Florida and at University of Maryland. When they eat algae, t...

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