Solar Powered Sea Slug - Uniting Animal and Plant Kingdom
One unique and remarkable creature is living among us and shocks the world of biology. This creature unites two worlds: animal and plant kingdom. This creature is a type of green sea slug which body is half-animal and half-plant. It is the only moving creature on earth which is known capable of producing green pigment (chlorophyll) which has commonly been a major part in green plants.
Presumably this unique sea slug has "stolen" some genes from algae plant, part of its main meals. With the ability to produce chlorophyll, this unique sea slug can process photosynthesis (a process of converting sunlight into energy) in the body, previously known only done by green leafy plants. It is also a hermaphrodite which produces both eggs and sperms at the same time, but do not self fertilize.
"These beings can produce energy containing specific molecules without the need to eat anything," said Sidney Pierce, a biologist from the University of South Florida. Pierce has conducted studies for over 20 years about this unique creature which has its scientific Latin name Elysia Chlorotica. They have also other names such as: “solar-powered sea slugs”, “leaves that crawl”, “walking leaf” and “eastern emerald elysia”. "This is the first time we found that multicellular animals can produce chlorophyll." he said.
These solar-powered sea slugs inhabit the salt marsh in New England and Canada. In the case of genes "robbery" needed to make chlorophyll, the slug was taking a small part of cells called chloroplasts, which enable it to carry out photosynthesis. Chloroplasts use chlorophyll to convert sunlight into energy, eliminating the need for food to meet the body's energy needs.
"We collect and place them (sea slugs) in an artificial environment of water for 1 month. Then we shine them for 12 hours a day and it turns out that they can still survive without eating." said Pierce.
But still, the new born sea slugs also carry the same innate characteristic but do not have the ability to produce chlorophyll on its own until they eat quite a lot of algae to "steal" the genes that support the ability of photosynthesis.
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