Elysia (gastropod)

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Elysia ornata 003.jpg
A live individual of Elysia ornata, head end towards the left
Scientific classification

Risso, 1818
Type species
Notarchus timidus Risso, 1818

See text

  • Actaeon Rang, 1829 (Not available from Oken, 1815)
  • Aplysiopterus Delle Chiaje, 1830
  • Checholysia Ortea, Caballer, Moro & Espinosa, 2005
  • Elysiella Verrill, 1872 (Invalid: junior homonym of Elysiella Bergh, 1871)
  • Elysiella Bergh, 1871
  • Pterogasteron Pease, 1860
  • Thallepus Swainson, 1840
  • Thridachia P. Fischer, 1883 (Unjustified emendation of Tridachia)
  • Tridachia Deshayes, 1857
  • Tridachiella MacFarland, 1924

Elysia is a genus of sea slugs, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Plakobranchidae. These animals are colorful sea slugs, and they can superficially resemble nudibranchs, but are not very closely related to them. Instead they are sacoglossans, commonly known as sap-sucking slugs.[1]

Elysia sea slugs graze on algae and some species such as E. viridis and E. chlorotica hijack the chloroplasts for themselves. The chloroplasts end up lining the slug’s digestive tract, enabling the slugs to survive solely by photosynthesis for several months at a time. This association is crucial for the development and maturing of the slug. Exactly how the slugs use the chloroplasts is unclear, as many of the proteins used are encoded in the genome of the host cell. These proteins, numbering in the hundreds, are manufactured in the cell’s nucleus, and then moved into the chloroplast, enabling it to survive.[2]

This genus was previously sometimes considered to be in the family Stiligeridae, and was also previously placed in the family Elysiidae.


Species in the genus Elysia include:[1][3]

Species brought into synonymy
  • Elysia arena Carlson & Hoff, 1978: synonym of Pattyclaya arena (Carlson & Hoff, 1978)
  • Elysia bedeckta MacFarland, 1966: synonym of Elysia hedgpethi Er. Marcus, 1961
  • Elysia cauze scops Ev. Marcus & Er. Marcus, 1967: synonym of Elysia scops Ev. Marcus & Er. Marcus, 1967
  • Elysia gracilis Risbec, 1928: synonym of Thuridilla gracilis (Risbec, 1928)
  • Elysia halimedae Macnae, 1954: synonym of Elysia pusilla (Bergh, 1871)
  • Elysia picta A. E. Verrill, 1901: synonym of Thuridilla picta (A. E. Verrill, 1901)
  • Elysia pruvotfolae Er. Marcus, 1957: synonym of Elysia crispata Mørch, 1863
  • Elysia schrammi Mörch, 1863: synonym of Elysia crispata Mørch, 1863
  • Elysia splendida Grube, 1861: synonym of Thuridilla hopei (Vérany, 1853)
  • Elysia thysanopoda Bergh, 1905: synonym of Thuridilla thysanopoda (Bergh, 1905)
  • Elysia vataae Risbec, 1928: synonym of Thuridilla vataae (Risbec, 1928)
  • Elysia verrilli Pruvot-Fol, 1946: synonym of Elysia crispata Mørch, 1863
Taxon inquirendum:
  • Elysia fezi Vilella, 1968
  • Elysia pruvotae Risbec, 1953


  1. ^ a b c Bouchet, P.; Gofas, S. (2010). Elysia Risso, 1818. In: Bouchet, P.; Gofas, S.; Rosenberg, G. (2010) World Marine Mollusca database. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=137928 on 2010-12-14
  2. ^ BBC News item
  3. ^ "Elysia". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  4. ^ Wagele, H., Stemmer, K., Burghardt, I., & Handeler, K. (2010). "Two new sacoglossan sea slug species (Opisthobranchia, Gastropoda): Ercolania annelyleorum sp. nov. (Limapontioidea) and Elysia asbecki sp. nov. (Plakobranchoidea), with notes on anatomy, histology and biology." Zootaxa 2676 (2010): 1-28.
  5. ^ Händeler K., Grzymbowski Y. P., Krug P. J. & Wägele H. (2009) "Functional chloroplasts in metazoan cells - a unique evolutionary strategy in animal life". Frontiers in Zoology 6: 28. doi:10.1186/1742-9994-6-28 PMID 19951407.

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