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DD pictureI  have often kidded my biologist friends that the only rule that ever works in biology is “for every situation that exists in biology, there is always an exception.” Another example of that concept has shown up as researchers have discovered a sea slug that can make its own chlorophyll and turn light into energy.

The animal’s scientific name is Elysia chlorotica and its common name is the eastern emerald elysia. It is found along the east coast of the United States.

This slug is able to manufacture the most common form of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that captures energy from sunlight. The chloroplasts the slug uses come from green algae called Vaucheria litorea. Once the slug eats enough of the algae the chloroplasts from the algae generate energy for the slug for the rest of its life — so it never has to eat again! The slug is then able to capture energy from the sun by the process of photosynthesis as plants do.

Scientists studying the process have found that there are at least 15 chemical reactions and the cooperation of multiple cell components to make this happen. The slug actually holds the chloroplasts within its cells and they work in light, but not in dark environments. The slug’s life is greatly simplified by this plant-like nature. Since it only has to eat once in its life, the condition of the algae is only critical during the first meal, and the lack of mobility is not an issue for the slug.

Gary Martin, one of the researchers studying the slug called the animal “Bizarre, … Steps in evolution can be more creative than I ever imagined.” We would suggest that an intelligence is what was the creative force in this complex, simple animal. God’s designs continue to amaze us as we look at the wonder-working hand that has gone before us.

Source of data: Science News, February 13, 2010, page 10.


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