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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Algal Sources of Sequestered Chloroplasts in the Sacoglossan Sea Slug Elysia crispata Vary by Location and Ecotype

Michael L Middlebrooks, Nicholas E Curtis, Sidney K Pierce
Biological Bulletin 2019, 236 (2): 88-96
30933641
Sacoglossan sea slugs feed by suctorially consuming siphonaceous green algae. Most sacoglossan species are feeding specialists, but the Caribbean coral reef-dwelling Elysia crispata is polyphagous and sequesters chloroplasts from multiple algal species into cells lining its digestive diverticulum for use in photosynthesis. We have used sequences of the chloroplast-encoded rbcL gene to compare the chloroplast donor algae in five populations of E. crispata from various Caribbean locations. We found that E. crispata utilizes more algal species than was previously known, including some algae previously not reported as present in the region. In addition, slugs from each location had unique chloroplast arrays with little overlap, except that all locations had slugs feeding on algae within the genus Bryopsis. This variation in diet between locations suggests that the slugs may be exhibiting local adaptation in their dietary choices, and it highlights ecological differences between the Caribbean-wide reef-dwelling ecotypes and the mangrove lagoon ecotypes found in the Florida Keys.

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