World’s Strangest

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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
that 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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