Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2015
Sarah Everts, C&EN:
Smaller than a finger nail, the marine slug Elysia tuca may not seem like a formidable predator. Yet the tiny gastropod has an unwavering predilection for a rather intimidating prey. The slug hunts Halimeda incrassata, a species of seaweed that packs toxic defense compounds and is more stone than flesh—its body is 85% calcium carbonate, the same mineral found in limestone and coral.
After finding its prey, the slug pierces the seaweed with a sharp saw-like appendage called a radula, and sucks out the seaweed’s cytoplasm, including its chloroplasts, which the slug then uses to make its own energy from sunlight. “It’s a solar-powered slug,” Rasher says, explaining that it gets 60% of its fixed carbon from these stolen photosynthetic organelles. The slug also steals the seaweed’s toxic arsenal of halimedatetraacetate—one of the compounds used by the slug to track the seaweed—for use as its own defense.
While you’re there, read up on a self-cleaning membrane that could help to pick up oil slicks
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