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  • José H. Leal

Squids in Space


Glow-in-the-Dark Bobtail Squid, Euprymna scolopes. Photo \VCG.

Now our Giant Pacific Octopus is jealous! On June 3, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will launch SpaceX’s 22nd resupply mission to the International Space Station. In the payload of the Falcon 9 rocket are several immature Glow-in the-Dark Bobtail Squid, Euprymna scolopes. The young squids are part of a research project titled UMAMI, short for Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions. The project examines the effects of spaceflight on interactions between beneficial microbes and their animal hosts. The Bobtail Squid hosts glowing bacteria in the light organ in their mantle, or outer skin.


Young Glow-in-the-Dark Bobtail Squid. Photo by Jamie Foster.

The squids provide food to the bacteria, such as amino acids and sugars, and the glowing bacteria provide just the right amount of light to help hide the squids’ shadows and assist with countershading. The bacteria also play a significant role in the development of animal tissues, and the project aims to monitor the effects of altered gravity on those beneficial interactions. The study could improve our knowledge about animal-microbe collaborations and ultimately advance human health and well-being on Earth. Read more about the project here.