November 25, 2008

Sea slugs solar powered

A Texas A&M University biologist says research shows sea slugs are solar-powered and behave like a plant.

Biology professor James Manhart says the sea slug's main food source is a type of alga that they digest while retaining the plastids in the plant cells. The plastids continue to photosynthesize and provide food for the slug.

Manhart said the a slug can survive for at least nine months by trapping solar energy and converting it into food.

We found that the slug has at least one gene required for photosynthesis in its nuclear genome, which has never been found in any animal, Manhart said Tuesday in a release. The critical thing is the plastids come from the alga, but the slug nucleus contains at least one, and probably more of the genes required for plastid functioning.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.