Skip to comments.Impossible Plant-Animal Hybrid
Posted on 04/27/2012 6:39:13 PM PDT by Windflier
Wildly bizarre half-plant/half-animal creature - with a lovely name "Eastern Emerald Elysia"
This beautiful leaf-shaped sea slug Elysia chlorotica lives in shallow pools along Atlantic coast of North America, eats algae with gusto - one meal is enough for its lifetime! - and by using photosynthesis like any other plant, shatters the most basic definition between the "animal" and "plant" kingdoms.
It may not be "easy being green", but for this slug it turned out to be highly efficient!
This is the ONLY natural example of genes shared between the living kingdoms of "plants" and "animals"
Shaped like a leaf? Check. Totally colored green? Check, although the young slugs are still colored brown until they eat their first "green" meal... but right after that, they're ready to make pigment chlorophyll a all by themselves for the rest of their lives!
One thing about Elysia chlorotica, "a sea slug that has stolen enough genes to become the first animal shown to make chlorophyll like a plant" (via)... They don't just use chloroplasts from the algae they eat - this phenomenon, though rare, is known as kleptoplasty. What's more, they seem to have the particular genes that make them able to keep processing these chloroplasts in a consistent and sustainable way:
Elysia chlorotica likes to inhabit "salt marshes, tidal marshes, pools and shallow creeks, at depths of 0 m to 0.5 m".
(Excerpt) Read more at darkroastedblend.com ...
It is amazing and I was just about to google the large red sea slug that swims so angelicly to see if they also photosynthesize.
... shivers ....
Thanks for posting. Very interesting, but cripplecreek hints at the situation. Symbiotic relationships are far from unknown in the natural world. For example, lichens aren’t organisms in the typical sense, but are a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an alga (or less frequently a cyanobacterium).
Lots of neat things out there.
Too true. We live in a most remarkable universe.
Reminds me of an MST3K episode from way back when.
“Is it a plant or an animal?”
Much appreciated, Windflier!
Funny or not, that’s poetic.
Not exactly symbiotic. The slug eats algae, but, instead of digesting them whole, it keeps the chloroplasts for its own use. Now, an animal usually lacks the physiology to keep chloroplasts working. So, this critter keeps also the chloroplast maintenance genes. Weird stuff.
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