We all learned in grade school that plants get energy from the sun, and animals get energy from plants.

Turns out, we may have to revise the textbooks a bit. The website of the journal Nature reports that scientists have found it may be possible for some animals—namely aphids—to harvest their own solar energy.

Entomologists at the Sophia Agrobiotech Institute in France have been studying the little bugs, which were already known to have the unusual ability to synthesize pigments called carotenoids. The pigments help many animals with their immune system and the creation of some vitamins, but most creatures have to eat them. Aphids take the DIY approach.

Now, the researchers say the aphids appear to be able to do another impressive trick—using the carotenoids to absorb energy from the sun and turn it into a power source for themselves. They found that green aphids, which have more of the pigment than other of the bugs, also have much more ATP, a substance that transfers energy through cells. Orange aphids have smaller amounts of carotenoids, but the concentrations rise when they’re in the light and fall in darkness.

The scientists are planning more tests to determine whether they’re really seeing what they think they’re seeing.

If aphids really do use sunlight directly, they would be the first animals known to do it. So far, scientists know that plants, algae and some fungi and bacteria use the sun that way.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be the first time aphids have been found to do something that the rest of the animal kingdom would find really strange. Besides being able to reproduce sexually and lay eggs, females can also basically clone themselves, giving birth to live, miniature versions of themselves. The bugs can be born pregnant, and some males don’t have mouths, so they die right after mating.

If they can also run on solar power, it’s probably not the weirdest thing about them.

Image credit: aroid/Flickr