Are Animals Photosynthetic?

Photosynthetic - Executive Chronicles

Plants are known to create food through the process of photosynthesis. Hence, plants, along with other photosynthetic organisms, form the basis for nearly every type of food chain on earth.

However, animals are strictly classified as non-photosynthetic because they do not possess any of the photosynthetic pigments. Nor do they possess any of the cellular organelles required for photosynthesis. Hence, they form secondary consumers and rely on plants or other organisms for food. However, certain exceptions defy this rule.

Solar Slug

Elysia chlorotica is a genus of small, sea slugs that are found throughout the eastern coastlines of the United States. Also called solar slugs, these seas slugs consume algae and then steal their chloroplasts. The slug then uses the stolen chloroplasts for the process of photosynthesis. This provides the solar slugs the ability to transform the sun’s energy into a form that is readily usable by the organisms. Unsurprisingly, since chloroplasts contain pigments, it gives the sea slug a bright-green hue, just like any other photosynthetic plants.

Spotted Salamander

A significant difference between plants and animals is that plants can convert solar energy into useable energy. Besides some select invertebrates, it was thought that no other vertebrates were capable of photosynthesis.

However, the embryos of the spotted salamander are considered the only instance among vertebrates where a symbiotic relationship exists between it and algae. Scientists, after careful analysis of the embryo, spotted a greenish hue present inside the cell. This signifies the presence of chlorophyll produced by algae. It incorporates itself into the embryo’s mitochondria, thereby directly utilizing this process for the creation of energy.

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