By: Rob Adams - Staff Writer
Published: May 15, 2021

Squid Into Space Set For Launch

Squid Into Space - The Endeavour shuttle is set to launch a squid into space next week. The species will take a ride into orbit for the first time. However, this is not because the astronauts want a change in their menu.

The planned mission will help us understand how “good” bacteria behave in the microgravity of space. As Jamie Foster of the University of Florida in Gainesville, who is running the experiment, puts it: “Do good bacteria go bad?”

We already know that disease microbes grow faster and become more virulent if they are sent into space. In 2006 Salmonella bacteria were sent up on a space shuttle, and when they returned to Earth they were almost three times as likely to kill mice as normal (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0707155104). Escherichia coli also changes its behavior.

These studies all focused on harmful bacteria. “This is the first to look at beneficial bacteria,” Foster says.
Orbital tentacles

Squid are cephalopods, a group of relatively intelligent animals that also includes octopuses and cuttlefish. Cephalopods have never been into space before – not in reality, at least.

Foster has arranged to send up the bobtail squid Euprymna scolopes, a Pacific species that carries a cargo of bacteria called Vibrio fischeri in its body. The microbes colonize young squid soon after the squid hatch and set up home in their light organs. The squid use the bacteria to generate light, which they shine downwards to ensure they don’t cast a visible shadow.


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