Extreme autotomy and whole-body regeneration in photosynthetic sea slugs

Curr Biol. 2021 Mar 8;31(5):R233-R234. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.01.014.


Autotomy, the voluntary shedding of a body part, is common to distantly-related animals such as arthropods, gastropods, asteroids, amphibians, and lizards1,2. Autotomy is generally followed by regeneration of shed terminal body parts, such as appendages or tails. Here, we identify a new type of extreme autotomy in two species of sacoglossan sea slug (Mollusca: Gastropoda). Surprisingly, they shed the main body, including the whole heart, and regenerated a new body. In contrast, the shed body did not regenerate the head. These sacoglossans can incorporate chloroplasts from algal food into their cells to utilise for photosynthesis (kleptoplasty3), and we propose that this unique characteristic may facilitate survival after autotomy and subsequent regeneration.

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia / anatomy & histology*
  • Aplysia / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Regeneration*