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Janna Nawroth
Postdoctoral Scholar

The first challenge in the life of a newborn Hawaiian bobtail squid is to capture a rare type of bacteria essential for the squid’s survival. For this purpose, the squid inhales seawater and pumps it through a special double hooped organ bathed in viscoelastic fluid, aka mucus (stained in red), that filters the desired bacteria from the flow and discards others. As seen from the live microscopy image of the micron scale organ, waves of mucus are continuously swept around the hoops to catch and transport bacteria. This is accomplished by the synchronized beating of fine hairlike paddles, or cilia, covering the hoops. Once captured, the beneficial bacteria multiply inside a designated pouch between the two hoops where they generate light essential for the squid’s camouflage and survival. The squid-bacteria interaction serves as a model system for understanding how both symbiotic and pathological bacteria colonize ciliated surfaces such as respiratory airways. Scale: The entire organ is ca. 0.8 mm in width. Stain: Lectin (WGA) conjugated with fluorophore AlexaFluor647.

jnawroth@caltech.edu

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