Some animals can use chlorophyll to generate energy

Did you know that some animals use chlorophyll to generate energy?


Elysia cholorotica, a sea slug found off the U.S. East Coast, can steal photosynthetic plastids from algae and survive by basking in the sun. Yes. You read it right. According to research by Sidney K Pierce, the sea slug Elysia chlorotica eats algae, but preserves the chloropasts and keeps them alive. After doing so it can get much of its energy from photosynthesis. Experiments have shown that this sea slug, which looks like a little leaf an inch or two in length, can go without eating for nine months or more, photosynthesizing with its stolen plant-parts as it basks in the sun.


There are also many species of corals, anenomes, and a few jellyfish and clams that house symbiotic algae in their bodies to feed off sunlight.


The main reason more animals don’t do something like this is that there’s just not much energy in sunlight. The few animals which do get energy this way are sessile or slow-moving, cold-blooded, simple animals with low metabolic needs. You just can’t power a large, fast-moving, warm-blooded creature with only the sunlight it can absorb through its skin. So you can’t recharge yourself when sunbathing. Well, you can’t physically recharge all the way. 


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PHOTOGRAPH BY PATRICK J. KRUG