Photosynthetic Aphids


Image: Shipher Wu and Gee-way Lin/National Taiwan University - via Wikipedia

Photosynthesis, the process of by which light energy is captured from the sun and turned into chemical energy, as any school children know, is what plants do every day. But scientists have discovered that an animal may actually be able to do it:

The biology of aphids is bizarre: they can be born pregnant and males sometimes lack mouths, causing them to die not long after mating. In an addition to their list of anomalies, work published this week indicates that they may also capture sunlight and use the energy for metabolic purposes.

Aphids are unique among animals in their ability to synthesize pigments called carotenoids. Many creatures rely on these pigments for a variety of functions, such as maintaining a healthy immune system and making certain vitamins, but all other animals must obtain them through their diet. Entomologist Alain Robichon at the Sophia Agrobiotech Institute in Sophia Antipolis, France, and his colleagues suggest that, in aphids, these pigments can absorb energy from the Sun and transfer it to the cellular machinery involved in energy production.

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