SYMBIOSIS

Plastid thieves escape starvation

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Science  13 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6223, pp. 733
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6223.733-c

Ingested algae pitch in to prevent starvation

CREDIT: JAN DE VRIES AND STEFFEN KÖHLER/CAI

Green sea slugs feed on algae, and in the process they take up photosynthetic plastids from the algae. The plastids stay intact in the slug's gut cells for months, and the slugs benefit nutritionally from ongoing photosynthesis. So much so that that some scientists think that the plastids can prevent slugs from dying of starvation. But photosynthesis and starvation can also produce toxic products that cause the slugs to die. de Vries et al. found one species of slug that does not rely on photosynthesis to keep it going during hard times. This slug resists death by ramping up mechanisms to remove damaged plastids and toxins.

Proc. R. Soc. B 10.1098/rspb.2014.2519 (2015).

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