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We Found the Cutest Thing on the Internet, and It’s a ‘Leaf Sheep’ Sea Slug

There are a lot of cute things on the internet, but perhaps this thing is the cutest. It’s a sea slug, and while that doesn’t sound cute by default, you’ve got to see it to believe it.

The Costasiella kuroshimae or “leaf sheep,” may look like a cartoon character, but it’s a real-life gastropod that lives in the ocean off the coasts of Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines. It has tiny, close-set eyes and sensory organs called rhinophores that look like ears.

Like actual sheep, leaf sheep graze on plants, which, in the sea slugs’ case, means marine algae. These tiny grazers (up to 1 cm long) eat so much algae that their bodies start to act like plants by photosynthesizing energy from the sunlight that filters through the ocean’s surface.

This process is called kleptoplasty, which the University of Hawaii defines as “the behavior of taking chloroplasts from a food source and incorporating them into the consumer’s cells.” When organisms capable of kleptoplasty eat plants’ undigested chloroplasts, those chloroplasts continue to photosynthesize and provide energy for their new hosts.

Watch this cute, photosynthesizing “thief” in action:

What’s your favorite cute ocean creature?

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