Dozens of Hawaii’s baby squids are in space for study

Squids have a symbiotic relationship with natural bacteria that help regulate their bioluminescence.

When astronauts are in low gravity, their body’s relationship to microbes changes, said Margaret McFall-Ngai, a professor at the University of Hawaii, with whom Foster studied in the 1990s.

“We found that the symbiosis of humans with their microbes is disrupted in microgravity, and Jamie has shown this to be true in squid,” said McFall-Ngai. “And, because it’s a simple system, she can get to the bottom of what’s wrong.”

“As astronauts spend more and more time in space, their immune systems are becoming what’s called a derangement. It doesn’t work as well, ”Foster said. “Their immune system doesn’t recognize bacteria that easily. They sometimes get sick. “

Foster said understanding what happens to squid in space could help solve health problems astronauts face.

“Some aspects of the immune system just don’t work well during long duration space flights,” she said. “If humans want to spend time on the Moon or Mars, we need to solve health issues to get them there safely.”

The Kewalo Marine Laboratory breeds squid for research projects around the world. Small animals are abundant in Hawaiian waters and are about three inches long like adults.

The squid will return to Earth in July.

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