In a creature that looks like it was pulled straight from a Pixar film, a series of new images reveal a small, elusive creature that hangs out on the ocean floors in select locations. Called Costasiella kuroshimae—less formally “Leaf Sheep” or “Costasiella”—the slug has since been dubbed the cutest marine creature in the world.
Its cute features may set it apart from some of the more horrific living creatures patrolling our oceans, but they serve an important purpose. For instance, the colorful spike-like formations on its back are used to help the creature camouflage itself from potential predators—allowing it blend in no matter the environment.
Moreover, the 0.2-inch (5-mm) creature has fascinating eating habits. When it isn’t gorging on moss, it can derive energy from sunlight—a process called photosynthesis—kind of like plants. It’s hardly the only creature with this ability, but its technique is a little different than most.
Namely, it employs kleptoplasty—a process whereby a living organism gains the ability to photosynthesize by stealing genes from other plants, like algae. In the event that food ever becomes scarce, some biologists believe certain species can sustain themselves on photosynthesis for a time. Eventually though, the effect wanes, and they revert back to their original form.
Of course, science aside…others have pointed out its physical similarities to Ermintrude: the cartoon cow from the Magical Roundabout. Do you see it?