A group of scientists – including some from Indiana University – have discovered a vertebrate lizard that is fueled through photosynthesis. Well, at least partly, and at least for the very early stages of its development.
For years, scientists have noted that the embryo of the spotted salamander has a distinct green hue to it. It was quickly discovered (nearly 100 years ago) that this is because a number of algae are living inside of the eggs in a symbiotic relationship. The algae feed upon the embryo’s waste while producing energy and nutrients for the growing salamander to thrive.
But what they didn’t know was that the algae don’t just live inside of the egg; they actually live inside of the developing salamander.
It’s a solar-powered lizard, baby!
However, not long after hatching, the lizards become opaque and live underground, which is not exactly prime real estate for algae. Thus, they die off before the salamanders ever come close to adulthood.
But it’s still a pretty cool discovery. There are other animals out there that do this as well, but none of them have a backbone. This is the first vertebrate to be discovered to have this type of relationship with plants.
And if I had time, I’d do a bunch of research and tell you even more about this cool little creature. But since I don’t, I urge you to take a second to learn more by reading the article penned by Ed Yong, author of the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog, my own daily personal favorite.
Or you can check out the research paper. But trust me, you want to read Ed’s version.