Sea Slug Feeds On Sunlight With Genes From Its Food

In his 2005 novel Old Man's War, John Scalzi refers to KloraDerm, a modification of human skin that gives humans a new way to take in energy:

Not Just a New Body - A Better Body

You've surely noticed the green skin tone of your new body. This isn't merely cosmetic. Your new skin (KloraDerm) incorporates chlorophyll to provide your body with an extra source of energy and to optimize your body's use of both oxygen and carbon dioxide. The result: You'll feel fresher, longer - and better able to perform you duties as a CDF serviceperson!

It turns out that the photosynthesizing sea slug, Elysia chlorotica, already does this, in a recent report. I guess it's not a prediction if nature already does it? But read on.


(Photosynthesizing sea slug, Elysia chlorotica )

How a brilliant-green sea slug manages to live for months at a time “feeding” on sunlight, like a plant, is clarified in a recent study published in The Biological Bulletin.

The authors present the first direct evidence that the emerald green sea slug’s chromosomes have some genes that come from the algae it eats.

These genes help sustain photosynthetic processes inside the slug that provide it with all the food it needs.

Importantly, this is one of the only known examples of functional gene transfer from one multicellular species to another, which is the goal of gene therapy to correct genetically based diseases in humans.

“Is a sea slug a good [biological model] for a human therapy? Probably not. But figuring out the mechanism of this naturally occurring gene transfer could be extremely instructive for future medical applications,” says study co-author Sidney K. Pierce, an emeritus professor at University of South Florida and at University of Maryland, College Park.

Is Nature more creative than Man? Maybe so.

Via MBL.

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