October 8, 2008
From: Mihir Pathak


I am a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. My focus area is studying the thermal science and bio-mechanics of natural phenomena. I have recently, learned quite a bit about the "solar powered sea slug " and found this forum to be very helpful in getting some questions answered. Here are my questions:

1. How do they move to light? What physically/chemically happens when they are exposed to phototaxis? Also, what is the photosynthesis process in the particular algae that they eat?

2. How do these slugs store their energy? What properties enable them to do so?

3. What is an effective way to measure the O2 and CO2 levels when the slug is exposed and not exposed to light?

4. What other measurements will the biologists and chemists in this forum find useful that an engineer can do? Essentially, I would like to create a mimic-ed device that can do something similar. Any collaborators?

5. I will be getting some slugs into my lab soon. Any advice on how to build their tank? What kinds of apparatus would I need? Lamps, heaters, water filters, bubblers, live coral?, other things? How do I keep them alive? How do I keep the algae alive?

Any sort of assistance on these questions would be great. Thank you for letting me post on this forum. I look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks.


Mihir Pathak
Mechanical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology


Pathak, M.G., 2008 (Oct 8) Tank/Phototaxis/Energy/Experiments. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/21929

Dear Mihir,

As you will see on the solar power Page, there are two major groups of solar-powered slugs. One group, the sacoglossans, are essentially herbivores who remove intact plastids from the plants and keep them alive and functioning in their own bodies. The second group are essentially carnivores, or related to carnivores, and they nurture single-celled plants [zooxanthellae] in their bodies. In most cases they have 'stolen' the zooxanthellae from their original cnidarian hosts [such as sea anemones or soft corals].

Quite different procedures are needed to keep these two types of animal - and their food - in aquaria. As far as I know only the first group have been successfully kept and studied in the lab. If you go to the Elysia chlorotica and Elysia clarki Fact Sheets and look at the attached messages you will find addresses of a number of researchers working in this field.

Concerning the second group, Ingo Burghardt [ingo.burghardt@rub.de] may be able to offer some suggestions,

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2008 (Oct 8). Comment on Tank/Phototaxis/Energy/Experiments by Mihir Pathak. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/21929

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