Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Leaf Slug

Over the past weekend, Chek Jawa and reportedly Beting Bronok suffered mass deaths of intertidal creatures. I was at Chek Jawa with Team Seagrass last weekend and it was indeed a sad sight. There were many dead and dying carpet anemones and sea cucumbers. The smell of decomposition lingered in the air and the slight drizzle did little to cheer the mood.

As the field orientation proceeded, one of the volunteers spotted two little leaf slugs. I smiled. Amid the gloom and doom, the leaf slugs are still surviving. Chek Jawa is not dead and will remain alive as long as we protect it.

This leaf slug is an Elysia species. Leaf slugs feed mainly on algae and appear green because of the presence of chloroplasts in their digestive system. These creatures have evolved a symbiotic relationship with algal chloroplasts which they suck directly when feeding on algae. The fascinating leaf slugs can then use the ingested chloroplasts to feed themselves photoautotrophically. Some scientists have even referred them as solar-powered!

This leaf slug is an Elysia ornata from St. John’s Island. It is one of the most beautiful fauna we can meet on our intertidal shores.

Pictures taken at: Chek Jawa, January 2007 and St. John’s Island, December 2006.


Colin, P. L. & C. Arneson, 1995. Tropical Pacific Invertebrates. A Field Guide to the Marine Invertebrates Occurring on Tropical Pacific Coral Reefs, Seagrass Beds and Mangroves, Coral Reef Press, U.S.A.

Rumpho, M. E., E. J. Summer & J. R. Manhart, 2000. ‘Solar-Powered Sea Slugs. Mollusc/Algal Chloropast Symbiosis’, Plant Physiology, vol. 123, pp. 29-38.


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