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Sea Slug Photosynthesis

March 15, 2010

A species of sea slug begins to harvest energy from the sun after eating algae.


Photosynthesizing sea slugs…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The saying "you are what you eat" is especially applicable to sea slugs, which often take on the bright colors of the food they consume.

SKIP PIERCE (University of South Florida):
For example, those that eat orange sponges often are orange.

That’s University of South Florida biochemist Skip Pierce. He says one species takes it a bit further than that. Its diet consists of algae, which harvest energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis.

And what we discovered was somehow algal genes had been transferred from the food material into the genome of the sea slug.

This turns the sea slugs green and they start to photosynthesize.

And at that point the adult never has to eat again, as long as you shine light on it, it will make enough energy to not only sustain its life but to reproduce.

I’m Bob Hirshon , for AAAS, the science society.