Kleptoplast

KLEP-toh-plahst n.

STOLEN GREENS  Sea slugs can steal light-harvesting chloroplasts and keep the cellular bits for months, but not all thieves use the material.

Sven Gould and Jan De Vries/Hhu Düsseldorf, Center for Advanced Imaging 

A cellular part such as a light-harvesting chloroplast that an organism takes from algae it has eaten. Some sea slugs hold on to these stolen chloroplasts for months. Scientists thought the slugs might get extra food from the photosynthetic organelles (SN: 2/13/10, p. 10).

But now it appears that two of the four species known to steal chloroplasts don’t use them. The slugs lack genes needed to help chloroplasts function, and without food they starve at the same rate in the light as in the dark, where the chloroplasts can’t work, researchers report November 20 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is managing editor of Science News for Students. She has a B.A. in biology from Cornell University and an M.A. in journalism from New York University. She writes about ecology, plants and animals.

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