Camouflaging is a game that the creatures of the world have been playing since the beginning of time, and it’s produced some fantastic displays of natural ingenuity.

But one strange little creature is about to take home the trophy.

At first glance, this looks like a bright green leaf submerged in the water.

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But it’s actually a sea slug called the “eastern emerald elysia,” or Elysia chlorotica.

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This cool underwater creature looks like plant life for a very good reason: it has incorporated genes from algae into its own chromosomes, allowing it to perform photosynthesis. 

Anatomy of the sacoglossan mollusc Elysia chlorotica.(A) Sea slug consuming its obligate algal food Vaucheria litorea. Small, punctate green circles are the plastids located within the extensive digestive diverticula of the animal. (B) A defined tubule of the digestive diverticula extending into the parapodial region of the animal (arrow). The digestive system consists of densely packed tubules that branch throughout the animal's body. Each tubule is made up of a layer of single cells containing animal organelles and numerous algal plastids. This cell layer surrounds the lumen. (C) Magnified image of the epidermis of E. chlorotica showing densely packed plastids. The animals are light grey in color without their resident plastids, which contribute chlorophyll to render the sea slugs bright green.

That’s right: this slug gets its nutrients from the sun just like a plant does, making it one of nature’s only solar powered animals. 

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This way, the elysia chlorotica can survive even if there’s no other food available. It can live on photosynthesis alone for up to a year.

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The young slugs are reddish or greyish in color, but they turn green as they mature.

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The green color also acts as an extra defense against predators, since it helps the slug blend with its surroundings.

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Watching it move is really something else.

A super-powered slug that can feed on solar energy underwater while hiding in plain sight? How cool is that!

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