Activity for Nature’s Cutest Symbiosis: The Bobtail Squid
This activity explores the content presented in the animated video Nature’s Cutest Symbiosis: The Bobtail Squid, which describes how the light produced by bacteria living inside bobtail squid helps the squid avoid its predators.
In this short animated film, Ed Yong and scientists Margaret McFall-Ngai and Edward Ruby explain how the Hawaiian bobtail squid recruits a specific type of light-producing bacteria, Vibrio fischeri, to colonize its light organ. The bacteria are essential for the squid to develop its light organ and produce light. The light organ provides the squid with a selective advantage because the light from the organ makes the squid virtually invisible to nocturnal predators, while the bacteria benefit from having a home and nutrients. The squid and the bacteria maintain a lifelong symbiotic relationship that benefits both species.
The “Student Handout” probes students’ understanding of the key concepts addressed in the film. The “Educator Materials” document provides suggested pause points in the film with questions for students, background information, and detailed discussion points; a list of related resources and references; and an answer key for the “Student Handout.”
Student Learning Targets
- Describe the nature and consequences of the mutualistic relationship between the bobtail squid and the bacteria in its light organ.
camouflage, counterillumination, light organ, marine biology, microbe, mutualism, predation, I Contain Multitudes
McFall-Ngai, Margaret. “Divining the Essence of Symbiosis: Insights from the Squid-Vibrio Model.” Public Library of Science Biology 12, 2 (2014): e1001783. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001783.
HS-LS2-3, HS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-5; SEP6
2.C.2, 2.D.1, 2.E.2, 2.E.3, 3.D.1, 3.D.2, 4.A.5, 4.B.3; SP6
CC2, CC5; DP1