Geek Trivia

Which Insect Is Capable Of Photosynthesis-like Energy Production?

Pea Aphids
Monarch Caterpillars
Damsel Flies
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Answer: Pea Aphids

Among animals and insects big and small, the Pea Aphid stands apart as the only creature outside of the plant and bacterial/fungal kingdoms that can directly harness the power of the sun. Specifically, the Pea Aphid is the only non-plant/micro-organism known to possess carotenoids, the organic pigments that allow plants and other photosynthetic organisms to convert solar energy into energy their bodies can use–in the case of the Pea Aphid it leverages sunlight and carotenoid pigments to make ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an abundant chemical found in many organisms used to store and transfer energy on the cellular level.

Although researchers have firmly established that the aphids are indeed producing ATP in this fashion, they are quick to note that they are unsure how much usable energy the aphids are deriving from the process and that it isn’t actually true photosynthesis as it doesn’t involve the conversion of solar energy and carbon dioxide into simple sugars.

Photo by Shipher Wu.