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What Can You Learn from a Solar-Powered Sea Slug?

What if the the eastern emerald elysia has more than a little alliteration going for it when it comes to its wow-factor? Let your curiosity run wild with a What? to Wow! on one, magically amazing marine mollusk!

What: The eastern emerald elysia may look like a leaf and act like a leaf, but it's still just a solar-powered sea slug (and secretly a thief!).

Who: Biologist, Patrick Krug claims the eastern emerald elysia is: “Basically your typical L.A. celebrity... It’s unique; it’s controversial; it’s elusive; it never eats..."(National Geographic)

When: In the 1970's scientists first discovered that the eastern emerald elysia steals chloroplast directly from algae; and that chloroplast ends up in the eastern emerald elysia's digestive cells.

Where: The home environment of the eastern emerald elysia encompasses the entire east coast of the United States.

How: How is the eastern emerald elysia powered by the sun? After it steals those chloroplasts, the eastern emerald elysia puts them to work by tapping into their ability to photosynthesize the Sun's rays into energy and then getting all of its energy from the Sun.

Why: Why is it important to get excited about and learn more about the eastern emerald elysia? Apparently, not many people are left studying them! According to the National Geographic: "...the small number of experts who studied them [eastern emerald elysia] have mostly retired or have moved on to other areas."

Huh: It's one thing to steal the chloroplast from an entirely different Domain of organisms, it's an entirely other thing to get them to function to photosynthesize properly inside their new host. Pretty mind-blowing when you think about it; it would be a bit like you taking a branch from a tree and then using it as an arm.

Wow!: What if humans aren't the only organisms into biomimicry for innovation and survival? It turns out the eastern emerald elysia, although an animal, does whatever it can to be like a plant. What other organisms can you think of--and learn from--that like to act like they're something they're "not"?

Thanks for getting curious about animal abilities and adaptations with the Butt-Breathing Turtle. Keep getting curious about animals with The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and its free Educator's Guide!

Thank you for your curiosity, stay curious, and let your curiosity lead your learning with more Curiosity-Based Learning content and activities from What If Curiosity!

*Cover Image Source. © Patrick J. Krug, Creative Commons CC BY-NC 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons


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