Thursday, January 21, 2010

Green sea slug is half animal, half plant

Scientists have identified a sea slug Elysia chlorotica able to synthesize chlorophyll like a plant as the first animal with herbal characteristics.

The animal enjoys genes that allow it to be the first animal identified showing plant features. Those genes help the sea slug make chlorophyll; compared to such an ability, its green color is no longer seen as strange.

Scientists from the University of South Florida have identified this green sea slug as the first animal known to be capable of the feat.

“This could be a fusion of a plant and an animal - that's just cool,” said invertebrate zoologist John Sardis of the Citadel in Charleston.

The sea slug Elysia chlorotica retains chloroplasts from its algal prey and looks much like a dark green leaf. The sea slug's algal prey, Vaucheria litorea, traps chloroplasts in the cells lining its digestive tract.

The slugs can manufacture the most common form of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that captures energy from sunlight.

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