The blog is written by Biol312 Writing in Biology students at UMass Amherst
Thursday, February 27, 2014
the process by which an organism uses energy from the sun to make
food, is commonly thought to only be in the domain of plants.
However, it turns out that there are in fact some species of animals
which are photosynthetic. This post will focus on one particularly
amazing species, the sea slug Elysia chlorotica, and the mechanism by which it
sea slug Elysia chlorotica is, it turns out, not born with chloroplasts, the organelles
necessary to do photosynthesis. It eats photosynthetic algae for
sustenance, particularly when it is young, and somehow in the
digestive process it extracts chloroplasts from the algae and incorporates them into its body. The chloroplasts function just as they do in the algae;
they synthesize sugar, but this time the snail gets the benefit instead of the algae!
has relatively recently been discovered is that the snail actually produces its own chlorophyll to
sustain the chloroplasts, using algal DNA that it somehow incorporated into its genome. The DNA transfer necessary for that to happen (from algae to animal) is virtually unknown in the animal world, but it is clear that it happened in this case. Nature works in magnificent and mysterious ways, and Elysia chlorotica is certainly evidence of that! -JE