Does a tiny mollusk have the solution to climate change?

A marine animal from the northeast sea of ​​the United States is able to survive through photosynthesis

Does a tiny mollusk have the solution to climate change?

All humans in the world produce close to 1 thousand 362 million tons of CO2 per year. This is equivalent to 10% of the CO2 emissions produced by man. However, scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey, United States, discovered an animal that is capable of not only not producing CO2, but is capable of absorbing it.

Leer en español: ¿Un diminuto molusco tiene la solución para el cambio climático?

The experts are surprised with the discovery they made in the nudibranchi. These are small mollusks that, apparently, behave like plants and are capable of perform photosynthesis. Researchers believe that this is almost like being able to add solar panels to a human body and that it can be powered by solar energy.

This mollusc "sucks" raw material used by algae to produce solar energy for life

Research indicates that young nudibranchs feed on non-toxic brown algae and thus become photosynthetic animals, which means they are being potentiated by sunlight.

These shellless molluscs manage to be "environmentally friendly" after stealing millions of plasmids - DNA molecules - from the algae that work as small solar panels and store them in their intestines.

The study explains that "photosynthesis is when algae and plants use sunlight to create chemical energy (sugars) from carbon dioxide and water". Plasmids from brown algae are photosynthetic organelles (organs of plants) with chlorophyll and green pigments that absorb light".

The Elysia chlorotic sea slug is found in the waters of Nova Scotia, Canada, Massachusetts, and Florida in the United States. This animal can reach up to 2 inches.

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"It is a remarkable feat because it is very rare for an animal to behave like a plant and survive only with photosynthesis", said Debashish Bhattacharya, lead author of the study. "The broader implication is in the field of artificial photosynthesis, that is, if we can discover how the slug keeps robbed and isolated plastids to fix the carbon without the plant core, then perhaps we can also use plastids isolated by eternity as machines green to create bioproducts or energy. The existing paradigm is that to make green energy, we need the plant or algae to execute the photosynthetic organelle, but the slug shows us that it does not have to be that way".

The scientist also explained that "when the marine slug makes a hole in the outer wall of the cell, it can absorb the contents of the cell and collect all the algae plastids". Based on studies of other marine slugs, some scientists have argued that they steal and store plastids as food to be digested in difficult times, such as camels that store fat in their humps. This study showed that this is not the case of Elysia chlorotica with solar energy. "It has this remarkable ability to steal these algae plastids, stop feeding and survive algae photosynthesis for the next six to eight months," he said.

The next step that scientists must take is to determine how the marine slug keeps the plasmids and photosynthesis for months without the nuclei of the cells that are needed for these organisms to continue functioning.


Latin American Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández
Translated from “¿Un diminuto molusco tiene la solución para el cambio climático?”