Elysia chlorotica "ghosts".

June 15, 2005
From: Skip Pierce

Hi Bill-
While sorting through some slides the other day, I came across the attached photo which I've been meaning to send to you, especially with the off and on again discussions about slug coloration on the Forum. The slugs are Elysia chlorotica "ghosts". Sherman Bleakney discovered and published a report on them a long time ago. I have the citation someplace - if you don't know it, I'll try to dig it out. The remarkable thing about these is that they are yellowish-white, but otherwise a perfectly respectable looking E. chlorotica. No matter how long you starve regular E. chlorotica, they will NEVER lose their green color until just before they die, when they turn a dark brown. The ghosts, on the other hand, eat Vaucheria, just like the regular E. chlorotica, and turn green, but if starved, rapidly (few days) turn yellow again and will die within a few more days if not fed. So they have no ability to sequester the symbiotic plastids - which means they lost the ability or never had it. While E. chlorotica has a fairly broad distribution from at least the Canadian maritimes down to the Chesapeake Bay (some have even reported them in Florida-possible, I suppose), the ghosts have only been seen in a few marshes in Nova Scotia and only occasionally. When I first started working on E. chlorotica, I prevailed on Bleakney to send me a few of the ghosts as I thought they might make interesting controls in our experiments. The ones he sent me are pictured here. We kept them at Woods Hole in natural sea water for a time, but they were such a chore to feed that we ultimately quit. Unfortunately at the that time, I had no inkling that I was going to be interested in their DNA, so the only remnants of these ghosts remain in Epon blocks. However, given our recent work on the molecular biology of the chloroplast symbiosis, it is possible that the DNA from these ghosts would be an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. Usually, every spring, I ask some people at Acadia U to keep an eye out for ghosts in the marshes along the Minas Basin. Bleakney is retired long ago. So far, no one has found any. Perhaps there are some Forum readers in Nova Scotia or perhaps Newfoundland that might have seen ghosts?? If so, please contact me.

Anyway, the collector here was Sherman Bleakney, I'm guessing about 1980, in a salt marsh someplace in the Minas Basin. The ghosts were generally smallish for E. chlorotica, these were maybe 0.5-0.75cm, but I really have no idea how big they get. They eat Vaucheria litorea and probably Vaucheria compacta as well.

Locality: Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Ocean (Bay of Fundy).  intertidal. Length: 0.5-0.75 cm. Photographer: Skip Pierce



Pierce, S. K., 2005 (Jun 15) Elysia chlorotica "ghosts". . [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/14039

Dear Skip,
I guess the paper you are referring to is the one listed below. From Sherman Bleakney's account in his 1996 book,  Sea Slugs of Atlantic Canada and the Gulf of Maine, there is still a lot of work to be done just sorting out the natural history of that species.

  • Gibson, G.D., Toews, D.P. & Bleakney, J.S. (1986) Oxygen production and consumption in the sacoglossan (=Ascog;lossan) Elysia chlorotica Gould. The Veliger, 28(4): 397-400

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2005 (Jun 15). Comment on Elysia chlorotica "ghosts". by Skip Pierce. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/14039


Elysia chlorotica

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