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Biotech Science

One Variety of Sea Slugs Cuts Out the Energy Middleman 232

dragonturtle69 writes with this story, short on details but interesting: "These sea slugs, Elysia chlorotica, have evolved the ability to gain energy via photosynthesis. Forget about genetic modifications for sports enhancements. I want to be able to never need to eat again — or do I?"
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One Variety of Sea Slugs Cuts Out the Energy Middleman

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  • I want the reverse. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:13PM (#30754424)

    I want to be able to consume as many extra calories as I like, and then radiate the excess as visible light, with radiant area, spectrum and direction under my conscious control.

    Or, at least, I'd like to be able to metabolize my food and store excess energy as electric charge, easily transferred to whatever devices are handy.

  • Photosynthesize! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Yuckinator ( 898499 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:13PM (#30754432)

    Once you've "eaten enough algae to steal the necessary chloroplasts", you'll be good to go!

    I would happily endure eating algae for X days/weeks/months in order to get photosynthesis going in my body. I realize that I'd have to start going outside, but it sounds like a fair trade off to me.

  • by Taibhsear ( 1286214 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:20PM (#30754570)

    In a normal plant cell is the chlorophyll produces by the cell and then shuttled to the chloroplast to be used or does the chloroplast itself produce the pigment within it's own membrane? If the latter, I would imagine this gene in the slug is redundant as the creature has to eat algae for the chloroplasts anyways.

  • by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:33PM (#30754788)
    The article seems to indicate that the genes to produce chlorophyll can be passed on to offspring. But then:

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

    Wouldn't that be a fluke that only needed to happen once? They do point out that the animals also have to get chloroplasts by eating plant material (these are not passed on to offspring), so perhaps they meant to say they aren't sure how they appropriate the chloroplasts. I would agree that's a really good question.

  • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:35PM (#30754820)

    Some species of Sea Slugs have another similar interesting ability -- to adsorb and host nematocysts (stinging cells) from jellyfish and hydrozoans they've eaten, and use them for their own defense. The mechanism is substantially different (foreign cells are sequestered in specialized sacs, compared to the intracellular hosting of an organelle) though.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glaucus_atlanticus [wikipedia.org]

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:41PM (#30754898)
    Couldn't you just form an symbiotic relationship with algae or photoplankton, allowing them to live inside you for protection in return for using them for energy? Aren't there already animals that do this?
  • Re:eating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kalirion ( 728907 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:47PM (#30754988)

    For me, some foods are enjoyable, most are a chore.

    I'd like to be able to eat some candy bars or ice cream or an occasional steak or whatever for pleasure, maybe pop a vitamin supplement, and not worry about having to eat to survive.

  • Re:eating (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @03:55PM (#30755114)

    I don't know about you, but if you present 2 m^2 of *cross-sectional area* to the sun, then you're either really tall or awfully fat. If 2 m tall, then you'd have to have an average width (from head to toe) of 1m.

  • Lamarckism (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Scarbo27 ( 1150965 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @10:56PM (#30760222)
    According to TFA: 'In fact, the slugs incorporate the genetic material so well, they pass it on to further generations of slugs." Isn't this the long-discredited (allegedly) Lamarckism? Passing on acquired characteristics to the next generation is Lamarckism. And if this isn't Lamarckism, could someone explain why I am wrong? And how can there be 210 comments and, as far as I can tell, no one else noticed this?
  • Re:Lamarckism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by u38cg ( 607297 ) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Thursday January 14, 2010 @03:29AM (#30761656) Homepage
    Don't be scared. This sort of thing happens quite a lot. And Lamarckism is not completely dead: although it isn't the main driver of evolution, there are plenty of examples of it in action.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.