NUDI GILL PIN-UP: Elysia Chlorotica

To prepare for NUDI GILL, my debut picture book release in September 2022, I am blogging about nudibranchs monthly. I hope you will fall in love with these little critters. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to March’s fascinating leprechaun-like supermodel:

Elysia Chlorotica

Karen N. Pelletreau et al. – Creative Commons

What just moved in my lucky charms?

This month I just had to deviate from nudibranchs to bring you this special sap-sucking sea slug. Try saying that five times in a row! But, really, who better to feature on St. Patrick’s Day than a creature that looks like a green leaf?

Mary Tyler—Mary Rumpho/University of Maine

This sea slug reminds me of my game: Flora or Fauna?

So what is Elysia Chlorotica?

A plant (flora) or an animal (fauna)?

Dare I say… both?

This little creature, unlike nudibranchs which are carnivores, is truly solar powered. Like a plant. If you don’t believe me, here’s an awesome TEDx presentation by a real scientist, Sidney Pierce. He also talks about the potential for advancements in gene therapy because of what we can learn from this tiny creature. Just a warning, he does say a four-letter word twice (the “s” one), so parents beware. I’m sure he couldn’t help it. It’s pretty exciting science!

This sea slug is green becaue it has chloroplasts inside it. Chloroplasts are the organelles inside plant cells that synthesize sunlight into energy. Chloroplasts are not in animals, they are in plants. Elysia Chlorotica gets their chloroplsats from the algae they eat. But when the sea slug eats the chloroplasts, they are not digested, they keep working!

Figure 1. [Source. © Patrick J. Krug, Creative Commons CC BY-NC 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons]

Not only does this creature behave like a plant, but it looks like one. Imagine if we could just lie in the sun for a few hours to charge our batteries? This is what these guys can do. They can live without food for a whole year because of these functioning chloroplasts inside their bodies.

What kind of music do Sea slugs that look like clovers prefer?

(Answer at end of post.)

When an Elysia Chlorotica is born, it muches on algae. But once it has synthesized the chloroplasts it doesn’t need to eat anymore. There’s a great word for this process: kleptoplasty. It means chloroplast robbery. Cute little thieves they are!

Would you trust a face like this?

These sea slugs can be found in shallow waters along the east coast of North America. When they want to “feed” they simply unfurl their leaf-like body like some kind of organic solar panel and soak up the rays!



Thank you for taking time to get to know March’s NUDI GILL PIN-UP, Elysia Chlorotica. Next time you come across a one leaf clover, check it for a head!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Stay tuned for April’s awesome NUDI GILL PIN-UP.

May the sun shine warm upon ye,


Bonnie Kelso writes and illustrates books for children and adults that encourage individualism and brave self-expression. She facilitates art workshops for her local community and beyond. Her debut picture book, NUDI GILL, releases in September, 2022. A lover of nature and travel, she often wanders about outside with her family whenever an excellent opportunity to do so presents itself.

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