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This is unique....

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posted on Jan, 12 2010 @ 04:04 PM
A green sea slug appears to be part animal, part plant. It's the first critter discovered to produce the plant pigment chlorophyll.

The sneaky slugs seem to have stolen the genes that enable this skill from algae that they've eaten. With their contraband genes, the slugs can carry out photosynthesis - the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy.

"They can make their energy-containing molecules without having to eat anything," said Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Pierce has been studying the unique creatures, officially called Elysia chlorotica, for about 20 years. He presented his most recent findings Jan. 7 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Seattle. The finding was first reported by Science News.

"This is the first time that multicellar animals have been able to produce chlorophyll," Pierce told LiveScience.

The sea slugs live in salt marshes in New England and Canada. In addition to burglarizing the genes needed to make the green pigment chlorophyll, the slugs also steal tiny cell parts called chloroplasts, which they use to conduct photosynthesis. The chloroplasts use the chlorophyl to convert sunlight into energy, just as plants do, eliminating the need to eat food to gain energy.

"We collect them and we keep them in aquaria for months," Pierce said. "As long as we shine a light on them for 12 hours a day, they can survive [without food]."

The researchers used a radioactive tracer to be sure that the slugs are actually producing the chlorophyll themselves, as opposed to just stealing the ready-made pigment from algae. In fact, the slugs incorporate the genetic material so well, they pass it on to further generations of slugs.

The babies of thieving slugs retain the ability to produce their own chlorophyll, though they can't carry out photosynthesis until they've eaten enough algae to steal the necessary chloroplasts, which they can't yet produce on their own.

The slugs accomplishment is quite a feat, and scientists aren't yet sure how the animals actually appropriate the genes they need.

"It certainly is possible that DNA from one species can get into another species, as these slugs have clearly shown," Pierce said. "But the mechanisms are still unknown."


Makes us wonder what else is out there!

posted on Jan, 12 2010 @ 05:04 PM
That's interesting. Wasn't there a case where a dissected alien was also found to contain chlorophyll? Even if it's a hoax, it's an interesting concept. I've wondered ever since I read that if some 'aliens' or 'biological ufos' are actually some sort of hybrid plant species. This planet is alive in more ways than we realize. We are still finding new species of life.

posted on Jan, 12 2010 @ 05:20 PM
That's really neat. S+F, thanks for sharing.

Earth is a beautiful place.

posted on Jan, 12 2010 @ 05:29 PM
reply to post by swampcricket

This sounds akin to the myths about eating the flesh of a powerful shaman to capture his power.
This also goes along way into explaining the theory of the evolution of humans by way of the introduction of bacterial and viral infections. This is based on a theory called panspermia.

posted on Jan, 12 2010 @ 05:36 PM
Sorry, but Darwin's Theory is set in stone and infallible. This is heresy.

Just kidding, fascinating discovery.

posted on Jan, 13 2010 @ 01:15 PM
Wow! What an amazing discovery! Elysia chlorotica can produce the plant pigment chlorophyll after they've consumed enough algae to steal the necessary chloroplasts. This is fascinating because it means that one species can obtain the DNA of another species.

The evolutionary implications are astounding, and I sincerely hope we can further understand how this process occurs.

Thank you for posting the information OP.

posted on Jan, 13 2010 @ 01:59 PM
Fascinating find!
Imagine that one day we could genetically engineer a photosynthetising human. We would solve two big problem at once - world hunger and rising CO2!

Originally posted by swampcricket

The babies of thieving slugs retain the ability to produce their own chlorophyll, though they can't carry out photosynthesis until they've eaten enough algae to steal the necessary chloroplasts, which they can't yet produce on their own.

This could be analogous to theory of endosymbiosis, according to which chloroplasts are actually desdendants of photosynthetising prokaryotes that were eaten by algae, but were not killed. They are basically "two" organisms, one living inside another.
If you kill all chloroplasts in a cell, it cannot recreate them, because they divide from mother cell like prokaryotes.

posted on Jan, 13 2010 @ 02:23 PM
Likely the coolest findings so far in 2010
Thanks OP

[edit on 13-1-2010 by nophun]

posted on Jan, 13 2010 @ 02:23 PM
reply to post by aletheia

I think the yahoo article is stretching a bit. The slugs are stealing the chloroplasts, not the DNA of the algae. Other kinds of sea slugs called nudibranchs do the same thing, stealing the stinging cells of jellyfish and sea anemones that they eat, and growing them on their skin. It seems that this specimen just found a new way to use an old trick.

posted on Jan, 14 2010 @ 06:10 AM
The implications to science are staggering. If one could unlock the secret of how and why these beings genetheive from other species, theres a chance that we could work it into our own DNA ! Imagine how useful the genethief trait would be for a future human race? Harnessed correctly , we could use it to adapt to other planets atmospheres! We could remake ourselves to suit any environment in which life existed in a DNA based format! These critters could be the keys to the doors of the universe !

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 05:05 PM
Wow, that's pretty interesting. Are there any other insects or animals that can do that besides the slugs?

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