Campus / News / Student Research / March 4, 2009

Biology student investigates photosynthesizing sea slugs

Elysia crispata is a sea slug found all over the Caribbean. Two things make this little guy special: it’s one of the only organisms that photosynthesizes, incorporating chloroplasts into its body instead of digesting them, and it is the subject of Clint Moore’s honors project.

Clint Moore is a senior with a double major in biology and environmental science. His honors project consists of looking at Elysia crispata specimens underneath an electron microscope for evidence of chloroplasts, in an attempt to figure out which specific type of algae it feeds on.

The specimens he uses were collected during trips to Belize during school breaks last summer and winter. “I started out doing a survey of coral in the reef there,” he said. “From there I decided I wanted to look more at this specific organism.”

However, he is not the first person to look into this. He said that this work is “not anything groundbreaking.” Most of his research is an attempt at confirming or negating existing literature on the subject. He has also consulted experts in the field.

“Figuring out what it feeds on can help us learn more about the organism,” said Clint. And the more we know about this organism, the better. “This will hopefully help show the importance of these guys within their ecosystems.”

Gordon Barratt


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