Leaf sheep are slugs thriving at the bottom of the sea. The funny-looking slugs use photosynthesis to feed themselves.
Leaf sheep look like farm animals and act like plants on the seabed. Do you know that leaf sheep use photosynthesis to get energy? Only a small number of animals can do this.
Costasiella kuroshimae feed themselves through kleptoplasty. The leaf sheep eat algae by sucking out its chloroplasts and absorb them.
Kleptoplasty is only performed by single-celled organisms. Leaf sheep are solar-powered sea plant slugs that look like farm animals. Interesting, right? Well, these are in no way linked to actual sheep.
Leaf sheep are 5 mm long and thrive in shallow waters in Indonesia, Philippines, and Japan. They have white heads and beady eyes. If you look at their tiny bodies, you will notice that they look like a cluster of leaves. The plumage comes in different colors and shapes.
Leaf sheep and photosynthesis
Only a small number of sea creatures use photosynthesis. Chloroplasts are plant cell organelles that promote energy storage and synthesis of proteins, oils, and starches. That’s why chloroplasts are so important for plants in the process of photosynthesis. Chloroplasts are common in stems, unripe fruits, and leaves.
So, the leaf sheep use undigested chloroplasts from algae and other food sources. Chloroplasts function and give leaf sheep the energy they need. Don’t forget one simple fact.
Leaf sheep can’t photosynthesize on their own and they only absorb organelles that will do photosynthesis for them. These slugs can survive without food for a long period of time.
Other animals that rely on photosynthesis
The Pea Aphid
Pea Aphids are white insects that feed on plants. These creatures produce pigments found in chloroplasts and chromoplasts which makes them red and even allows photosynthesis. Of course, scientists need to conduct more research.
The Spotted Salamander
Spotted salamanders are black reptiles with yellow spots. They have sort of a symbiotic relationship with algae. Spotted salamanders lay their clear-colored eggs on underwater plants in shallow areas. Algae in the embryos give energy for growth and development from sun rays. The added energy gives the eggs a chance to survive.
Salamanders benefit directly from photosynthesis. Highly developed organisms like other salamanders don’t have this sort of symbiotic behavior.
The Green Sea Slug
These creatures resemble a bright leaf. The green sea slug feeds on algae and chloroplasts and genes from it. In this way, the slug gains energy through kleptoplasty.
“We collect them and we keep them in aquaria for months,” said Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “As long as we shine a light on them for 12 hours a day, they can survive [without food].”
The world is such a wonderful place and oceans hide the biggest secrets. We can only imagine the magic that happens at the bottom of the season.