These animals are also plants … wait, what? - Luka Seamus Wright

Animals that are also plants represent a fascinating phenomenon in the natural world, blurring the line between the animal and plant kingdoms. These organisms, known as autotrophic animals or mixotrophs, possess the unique ability to both photosynthesize and consume food like typical animals.

One example of such creatures is the sea slug Elysia chlorotica. This remarkable marine invertebrate possesses the ability to incorporate chloroplasts from algae it consumes into its own tissue. As a result, the slug gains the capability to carry out photosynthesis, generating energy from sunlight like a plant. It can survive for months solely on the energy derived from photosynthesis, making it a true animal-plant hybrid.

Another intriguing mixotroph is the green hydra, a small freshwater organism. The green hydra possesses green-colored algae called zoochlorellae within its cells. These algae engage in photosynthesis, providing the hydra with nutrients and energy. The relationship between the hydra and the algae is mutually beneficial, with the algae receiving protection and nutrients in return.

Some species of coral also display mixotrophic behavior. These coral species can capture prey using their tentacles while also harboring photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae within their tissues. The coral provides a protected environment and nutrients to the algae, while the algae supply the coral with products of photosynthesis, aiding in its growth and survival.

The existence of animals that are also plants challenges the traditional classification of organisms into distinct categories. These fascinating creatures highlight the remarkable adaptability and versatility of life on Earth, blurring the boundaries between different biological kingdoms. Further research into these mixotrophic organisms may offer insights into the evolution of complex symbiotic relationships and the diverse strategies living beings employ to survive and thrive.