Half animal half plant - Green sea slug

Scientists have discovered a sea slug Elysia chlorotica able to synthesize chlorophyll like a plant as the first animal with herbal characteristics. It's the first critter discovered to produce the plant pigment chlorophyll.

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.

The sea slug Elysia chlorotica retains chloroplasts from its algal prey and looks much like a dark green leaf. The sea slug's algal prey, Vaucheria litorea, traps chloroplasts in the cells lining its digestive tract.

The sea slugs live in salt marshes in New England and Canada. In addition to burglarizing the genes needed to make the green pigment chlorophyll, the slugs also steal tiny cell parts called chloroplasts, which they use to conduct photosynthesis.

The chloroplasts use the chlorophyl to convert sunlight into energy, just as plants do, eliminating the need to eat food to gain energy.

"They can make their energy-containing molecules without having to eat anything," said Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Via - LiveScience

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