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In the Real World

Pop Culture and Photosynthesis

Many superheroes call on science to describe where they find their superhuman powers. For Spiderman, a spider transferred its DNA to Peter. For Superman, his powers came from exposure to the Earth’s Sun. Sound familiar? Well, OK. Maybe photosynthesis didn’t make it into the Superman plot line, but we think it should have. What’s that you’re saying? We can see you shaking your head. Photosynthesis is cool enough, darnit. Yes, we insist. What if we told you that a super-Spidey exists in Nature?

Look at the super slug Elysia chlorotica. It eats plants, steals their DNA, and keeps their chloroplasts. The result? After a two-week feast, it can survive for the rest of its year life living only on the energy produced from photosynthesis. That is like Spiderman and Superman all wrapped into one sluggy superparty! It is a shame that your stomach enzymes are so well-adapted to breaking down chloroplasts and DNA.

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