Sea slugs, jellyfish, and crabs

We rarely associate the process of photosynthesis with animals, but life regularly outpaces our ability to imagine it. For Costasiella ocellifera, a species of sea slug, photosynthesis is part of the way it makes a living. When these sea slugs eat algae, they absorb the undigested chloroplasts and incorporate them in their skin. This practice, called kleptoplasty, allows them to supplement their diet with photosynthesis, and can sustain them when food is scarce. While the Wikipedia article on Costasiella ocellifera has existed since 2017, it was just a three-line stub with no mention of kleptoplasty until a student in Joshua Stone’s Invertebrate Zoology class started working on it this term.

Despite having more than 6.3 million articles, there are still large gaps in Wikipedia’s coverage of invertebrate biodiversity, and there’s plenty to add for a class like this one.

Desmonema is a genus of jellyfish found in oceans near the Antarctic and off the coast of Argentina. Until a student in the class created it, there was no Wikipedia article about either the genus or any species in the genus. The same is true for the dragonfly genus Risiophlebia — neither the genus nor any of its species were covered in Wikipedia before this class. Hepatus pudibundus is one of the most common species of crab in Brazil, but it too lacked a Wikipedia article.

In addition to creating new articles, there was plenty to expand among existing ones. Apart from the Costasiella ocellifera article, students expanded articles like Carybdea, a genus of venomous box jellyfish, and Ocypode gaudichaudii, a crab found on the Pacific coast of South and Central America.

Classes like these can fill important gaps in Wikipedia’s coverage of biodiversity. And since articles about species and genera have a predictable format on Wikipedia, they’re also a fairly easy place for students to learn to edit. To have your own students improve Wikipedia’s species and genera, visit to get started.

Image credit: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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