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How do symbioses between microbes and animals operate? How does a host recognize its symbionts? What prevents a host from overgrowing its symbiont or vice versa? What makes an interaction between microbes and animals beneficial versus harmful? These are just a few of the questions that have guided Dr. Margaret Mc-Fall Ngai’s research on animal-bacteria symbioses. In her lab at the University of Hawaii, she’s using the Hawaiian bobtail squid as a model for this research. This species of squid hunts its prey at night, using the light emitted by its bacterial symbiont to camouflage itself within the light of the moon and stars, thereby remaining undetected by predators.

On today’s episode, Dr. Mc-Fall Ngai discusses the science behind this research, explaining how the illuminous bacterium alter the gene expression of the squid, what exactly occurs as a result of those changes in gene expression, what the research has revealed thus far about symbioses between animals and microbes in general, the concept of evolutionary tinkering, and so much more.

Press play to hear the full conversation and check out http://glowingsquid.org/index.php to learn more.

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