Scientist Sidney Pierce has been studying Elysia chlorotica, a type of sea slug, for about 20 years now and this past january he presented his findings. These findings were first reported by science news and Live Science has a nice article on Pierce's findings. These slugs, unlike any other multicellular animal, can produce chlorophyll which is essential to photosynthesis. The slugs obtain the chlorophyll producing gene along with chloroplasts (the cellular machinery that converts chlorophyll into energy) from the algae common to their diet. Pierce found that this chlorophyll producing gene, once obtained, is passed down from generation to generation producing sea slug offspring capable of producing chlorophyll. The only problem with this is that the slugs dont produce their own chloroplasts. These must be obtained by the young from eating the same algae that first allowed their ancestors to produce chlorophyll.
Although the method by which the new genes are incorporated into the genome of the new organism is not fully understood, just knowing that this phenomenon is not only possible but occurs naturally, opens many doors to future areas of research surrounding possible plant-animal hybridizations or even just development of new techniques for incorporating any gene into the genome of another organism.
Cullan Bartel (Group A)