Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ingenious - Solar-powered slug

Eat a plant and become photosynthetic. That's an ingenious energy efficiency model. And it's green, too.

A lurid green sea slug, with a gelatinous leaf-shaped body, has ability to run on solar power. Mary Rumpho of the University of Maine, has now discovered how the sea slug gets this ability: it photosynthesises with genes "stolen" from the algae it eats.

She has known for some time that E. chlorotica acquires chloroplasts – the green cellular objects that allow plant cells to convert sunlight into energy – from the algae it eats, and stores them in the cells that line its gut.

Young E. chlorotica fed with algae for two weeks, could survive for the rest of their year-long lives without eating, Rumpho found in earlier work.

Through evolution and advances in bio-technologies, could humans be photosynthetic?

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