01 March 2011

New mangrove slug named after Singapore

Elysia singaporensis is a newly described slug that was found in "old mangrove forest bordering east side of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve".
It is tiny! When alive, it is only about 30mm long. When well fed with algae, it is green. It has "ruddy specks" on the upper and undersides including foot sole, forming a line over the upper sides of the rhinophores. A new paper in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology (RBZ 59(1): 1–115. 28 February 2011) shares all the fascinating details.

The paper also outlines lots of fascinating facts about other Elysia slugs found in the mangroves. We recently saw one of these, Elysia bangtawaensis, at Kranji Nature Trail, next to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

These fascinating slugs are 'solar-powered'. The author explains that they suck out the contents of algae (seaweed) that "grows in high mud between mangrove roots. This often means the slugs cannot reach their food except at high sping tides. Experiments showed that they can feed for many hours and can survive without food for two to three months"

How do they survive without food?!

They retain the choloroplasts that they suck out of their food. And can use the chloroplasts to make food from sunlight. The author adds that this "does not mean that they like direct sun light, they seem to dislike strong light and prefer the shade. Tests showed that some can keep their chloroplasts for months. However, then they become gradually smaller and their green colour changes into yellowish. This may suggest that they not only need new chloroplasts, but also some additional substances from their food alga. The famished slugs regain their colour and size after they feed on algae."

Read all about these slugs in the paper: Large mangrove-dwelling Elysia species in Asia, with descriptions of two new species (GAstropoda: Opistobranchia: Sacoglossa). Cornelis (Kees) Swennen. Pp. 29–37 [pdf, 223 KB]

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