by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education
½ plant, ½ animal critter discovered!
Sounds like a headline from National Enquirer, doesn’t it? It’s actually a post from msn.com. Scientists have discovered a “sea slug” that can produce chlorophyll. As the slug ages, it also can perform photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy. This requires chloroplasts, which are tiny cell parts that use chlorophyll. While the slug can make its own chlorophyll, apparently it steals chloroplasts from the algae it eats. Once the slug has consumed enough algae (and therefore chloroplasts) in its life, it can begin photosynthesis.
We talk about categorization pretty regularly around here (you got science in my history! You’ve put history in my science! Two great subjects that “taste” great together — name that pop culture reference). It’s fun when new discoveries lead us to rethink our categories. Nothing has changed in the real world — that slug has been there all along — but for us, uncovering these new facts allows us to reevaluate our perceptions, which leads to (hopefully) new understanding and renewed appreciation for the diversity, so much of which is yet unknown, of our universe.