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Eastern Emerald Elysia (Elysia chlorotica)

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

This sea slug is very interesting because it is one of the only animals that can photosynthesize. In fact, it is even shaped similar to that of a leaf. So let's find out more about this sea slug and its amazing abilities!

Physical Description and Behavior

The Elysia is shaped similar to that of a leaf and is even green like one. This coloration is due to the chloroplasts it absorbed from the food it eats. Because this sea slug does not have any protective shell, this green coloration, and plant-like shape also help it to avoid predators. They may also look reddish or grayish, due to specks of red and white spots present throughout its body. In fact, they start with red and white spots before gradually becoming greener over time.

Fun Fact: This sea slug can photosynthesize like a plant! They can do this because they absorb the chloroplasts from the algae they eat and use that to create energy. This is also known as Kleptoplasty. This helps them in times when food may be short, allowing them to survive for months without food.

These slugs do not survive for long. In fact, they often die off less than a year after they are born, right after laying a string of eggs in the spring. This mass die-off was once thought to be the cause of biological cues, but since it still happens in captivity, it is more likely that all of the adults die off at the same time due to a viral infection.

Habitat and Location

They prefer to live in salt marshes, tidal marshes, pools, and shallow creeks. These slugs stay near the surface of the water, rarely going more than half a meter below the surface. This is often due to them needing to stay in the sunlight.

They can be found along the US's east coast. This includes New York, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, and even as far north as Nova Scotia. But it is also important to note that this sea slug is on the decline, and research on it has mostly stagnated.

If you want to learn more about this interesting sea slug, check out the videos below!

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