Relative importance and interactive effects of photosynthesis and food in two solar-powered sea slugs
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Sacoglossans use chloroplasts taken from algal food for photosynthesis (kleptoplasty), but the adaptive significance of this phenomenon remains unclear. Two con-generic sacoglossans (Elysia trisinuata and E. atroviridis) were collected in 2009–2011 from Shirahama (33.69°N, 135.34°E) and Mukaishima (34.37°N, 133.22°E), Japan, respectively. They were individually maintained for 16 days under four experimental conditions (combination of light/dark and with/without food), and their survival rate and relative (=final/initial) weights were measured. Both light and food had positive effects on the survival in E. trisinuata, whereas no positive effects of light or food on survival were detected in E. atroviridis. Both light and food had positive effects on relative weights in both species, but light had smaller effects than food. A significant interaction term between light and food was detected in E. trisinuata (but not in E. atroviridis) in that only the presence of both resulted in weight gains. This result suggests that E. trisinuata can obtain sufficient additional energy from photosynthesis for sustaining growth when fresh chloroplasts are continuously supplied from algal food. In addition, fluorescence yield measurements showed that unfed individuals of both E. trisinuata and E. atroviridis lost photosynthetic activity soon (<4 and 4–8 days, respectively). In conclusion, photosynthesis may function to obtain supplementary nutrition for sustaining growth when food is available in sacoglossans with short-term functional kleptoplasty.
We thank Nobuo Yamaguchi and other staff at Mukaishima Marine Biological Laboratory and staff at Seto Marine Biological Laboratory for help, Keiji Wada, Cynthia D. Trowbridge, Judy Grassle, the anonymous reviewers, and our laboratory members for discussion and suggestions.
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