A Hawaiian Squid and Its Relationship to Bacteria
Researchers with the University of Hawai‘i are using what they call a “charismatic squid” to demonstrate the relationship between bacteria and living creatures.
The one-inch Hawaiian bobtail squid lives in tidal zones around the islands and only comes out at night to feed. It escapes predators by creating a glow that mimics moonlight coming from above. That camouflage is made from a single type of luminescent bacteria living inside the squid’s body. For contrast, the reaction is similar to the light given off by a firefly.
But researchers found the squid is not born with the bacteria and is able to attract it through a pheromone-like chain of fatty-acids in a process called chemotaxis. The squid and the bacteria live together in this mutually benefiting system - with the bacteria allowing it to change color, and the squid providing a home and food for the bacteria. Most organisms use this symbiotic relationship with bacteria to survive. For example, the bacteria in our stomach- breaks down food we eat and converts it to energy.
The relationship also gives scientists a greater understanding of how species evolve and allows us to better construct and manage them. Ned Ruby is a professor with UH’s Pacific Bioscience Research Center. He says the Hawaiian bobtail squid provides a great example of that relationship.
In the future- Ruby’s team will study how the hundreds of different bacteria colonize and co-exist inside an organism. Their research was recently published with the Pacific Bioscience Research Center.
This video explains the science.