The Scope, the Official STEMscopes Blog

Solar Power Slugs

Posted by Science Explored on March 04, 2013

A full stomach with nothing to eat?  Marine scientists have found an organism that can answer that question with a resounding “yes!”  Discovered in 2008, Elysia cholorotica is a solar powered sea slug that resembles a snail without its shell.  This solar slug roams the Eastern coast of the United States in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.  Dr. Mary Rumpho, a professor of biochemistry at Maine University’s School of Marine Sciences, discovered how this slug manages to feed without having to eat – the secret is stolen genes.

When we think of photosynthesis, most of us conjure up an image of a plant cell brimming with chloroplasts, a green colored cell structure designed to capture the sun’s energy.  Plants are capable of harnessing the sun’s energy to create glucose, a sugar that other cell structures called mitochondria use to power all physical and mental behaviors.  Though plant cells always contain chloroplasts, animal cells do not possess these structures, and animals must eat to gain glucoseWhen E. cholorotica hatches from an egg it initially eats a diet of algae, which, although we most often see as a green film on aquariums glass is one of the most widespread plants on the planet. 

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Topics: E. cholorotica, Science Explored, kleptoplasty, photosynthesis

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