The Sea Sheep (Costasiella kuroshimae)
The Sea sheep (Costasiella kuroshimae) is a sea slug that uses some of the algae it eats to help power itself via photosynthesis. In other words, it’s a sea slug that can use the power of the sun to help make its food.
We featured one of the Sea sheep‘s cousins a while back, Elysia Chlorotica. What they have in common is that they both conduct kleptoplasty. This is the ability to steal chloroplasts from photosynthetic organisms. Kuroshimae feed primarily on marine algae which are photosynthetic. Even though Kuroshimae can feed on its own, the stolen chloroplasts produce some sugars for it. The process was probably a mistake at first but over time, the acquisition of the chloroplasts became easier.
Kuroshimae don’t have genes that produce products to help nourish the chloroplasts; hence, the chloroplasts eventually degrade. That’s okay though because she can simply acquire more; however, some species of photosynthetic sea slug do produce genes that allow their chloroplasts to continue to produce sugars for months.
Did we mention that it’s cute?
Kuroshimae has been compared to a cartoon sheep with its white face, beady eyes and rosy cheeks. Though difficult to find, they are sold as pets to beautify marine tanks and help clear away algae. They are found naturally off the coast of a few Japanese islands and the Philippines.
They make cute inanimate collectables too!
You can see the little guy grazing in its pastures below: