The Benefit and importance of Kleptoplasty to Sacoglossan Sea Slugs

Caleb Beck \ Oceans First, Issue 4, 2017, pgs. 1-8.  Download PDF


Photosynthesis was first observed being performed by sacoglossan slugs in the 1960’s. However, there is still little known about the cellular processes that give sacoglossans their unique photosynthetic ability. In the past few decades the literature written about photosynthesis in sacoglossans has been contradictory regarding whether or not they are able to photosynthesize at all, and whether this is an example of horizontal gene transfer between the sacoglossans and their algal food source. The goal of this paper is to analyze existing literature on, and determine whether sacoglossans benefit from photosynthesis and if it is an example of horizontal gene transfer. This paper examines literature on six sacoglossan species and the impacts photosynthesis has on them. These impacts include; change in weight during starvation, survival rates, yield of offspring, and the influence of non-native algal food sources. Past sacoglossan research has focused on three or fewer species at a time. Lack of comparison between species and lack of data compilation caused the benefits of photosynthesis to sacoglossans not to be apparent. The benefits of photosynthesis become clear after data compilation, which shows that there is variation of photosynthetic abilities between sacoglossan species. In those sacoglossans that can photosynthesize it has been shown that they maintain plastids from their algal food source and that their photosynthetic abilities are an example of horizontal gene transfer.