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A Hawaiian Squid and Its Relationship to Bacteria

Ned Ruby Kewalo Marine Laboratory
Ned Ruby Kewalo Marine Laboratory

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.

Nick Yee’s passion for music developed at an early age, as he collected jazz and rock records pulled from dusty locations while growing up in both Southern California and Honolulu. In college he started DJing around Honolulu, playing Jazz and Bossa Nova sets at various lounges and clubs under the name dj mr.nick. He started to incorporate Downtempo, House and Breaks into his sets as his popularity grew, eventually getting DJ residences at different Chinatown locations. To this day, he is a fixture in the Honolulu underground club scene, where his live sets are famous for being able to link musical and cultural boundaries, starting mellow and building the audience into a frenzy while steering free of mainstream clichés.
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