Back in Sun Diego: Solar-powered sea critters

Sunset at Key West, Florida

After nearly two months with my second family in beautiful (damp, frigid) Killington, Vermont, I've just returned to San Diego--smack in the middle of a uncharacteristic heat wave.

This is normally the sort of thing I'd complain about.

The weather here is typically a predictable 65º-75º F, year-round. Change is scary. And unwelcome. Usually.

But when change comes in the form of nearly triple the temperature I left behind in VT (that is three times as many degrees, people!!!), it turns out that I welcome the opportunity to thaw out.

And yesterday, while enjoying the heat at the pool, I briefly considered the possibility that maybe was actually solar-powered. I don't need food anymore, I thought, All I need is warmth.

This of course was incorrect, and I shuffled my flip-flops home almost immediately thereafter and ate some soup.

But it reminded me of critters that actually are solar-powered. Sea slugs, specifically.

Like this guy, the Lettuce Sea Slug (Elysia crispata), who eats chloroplasts from plants and then photosynthesizes his own nutrition.

Lettuce Sea Slug (Elysia crispata), Curaçao


Or take this one, the nudibranch Phyllodesmium briareum, which does much the same thing. Click through for one of the best words ever: zooxanthellae.

Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Phyllodesmium briareum nudibranch


Personally, I'm probably going to skip the phytoplankton and stick to soup, but I do sort of envy and admire the ingenuity of the solar-powered slug.

Or maybe that's just the heat talking.


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