That's what researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison report in the current issue (June 2) of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study shows that the light-emitting organ some squids use to camouflage themselves to avoid being seen by predators — usually fish sitting on the ocean floor — also detects light.
The findings may lead to future studies that provide insight into the mechanisms of controlling and perceiving light.
"Evolution has a 'toolkit' and when it needs to do a particular job, such as see light, it uses the same toolkit again and again," explains lead author Margaret McFall-Ngai, a professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH). "In this case, the light organ, which comes from different tissues than the eye during development, uses the same proteins as the eye to see light."
In studying the squid for the past 20 years, McFall-Ngai and her colleagues have been drawn to the fact that the squid-light organ is a natural model of symbiosis — an interdependent relationship between two different species in which each benefits from the other.
In this case, the light organ is filled with luminous bacteria that emit light and provide the squid protection against predators. In turn, the squid provides housing and nourishment for the bacteria.
The UW-Madison researchers have been intrigued by the light organ's "counterillumination" ability — this capacity to give off light to make squids as bright as the ocean surface above them, so that predators below can't see them.
"Until now, scientists thought that illuminating tissues in the light organ functioned exclusively for the control of the intensity and direction of light output from the organ, with no role in light perception," says McFall-Ngai. "Now we show that the E. scolopes squid has additional light-detecting tissue that is an integral component of the light organ."
The researchers demonstrated that the squid light organ has the molecular machinery to respond to light cues. Molecular analysis showed that genes that produce key visual proteins are expressed in light-organ tissues, including genes similar to those that occur in the retina. They also showed that, as in the retina, these visual proteins respond to light, producing a physiological response.
"We found that the light organ in the squid is capable of sensing light as well as emitting and controlling the intensity of luminescence," says co-author Nansi Jo Colley, SMPH professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and of genetics.
Adds McFall-Ngai, "The tissues may perceive environmental light, providing the animal with a mechanism to compare this light with its own light emission."
McFall-Ngai's large research program into the relatively simple squid-light organ symbiosis aims to shed light on symbiosis affecting humans.
"We know that humans house trillions of bacteria associated with components of eight of their 10 organ systems," she says. "These communities of bacteria are stable partners that make us healthy."
Both Colley and McFall-Ngai are members of the UW-Madison Eye Research Institute.
Dian Land | EurekAlert!
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.01.2018 | Awards Funding