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Solar Powered Sea Slug

Follow the PHOTOGRAPHY OF MARK LIGHTFOOT

 

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A beautiful example of natural engineering, the SEA LETTCE SLUG (Elysia Crispata), typically 1-2 inches in length, uses plant technology to create a portion of it's energy. When eating algae, this sacoglossan (it's not a nudibranch), retains the chloroplasts from the partially digested algae in it's tissues which continue to photosynthesize (kleptoplasty) when exposed to light, producing sugar/energy. When looking at the intricate layout of the SEA LETTCE SLUG's back, which looks like specialty pasta, you can see that the surface area exposed to light has been maximized. Isn't Mother Nature clever!

 

It took 4 weeks of diving to finally find the right LETTUCE SEA SLUG in the right place at the right time. In about 30 feet of water, this individual was transiting a sponge to find a new patch of algae to feast on. This is a rare "pose" and I was lucky to catch it before it dropped on a thread of slime down to a patch of algae below the sponge.

 

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Taken on June 8, 2010