- News Home
17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
- About Us
12 January 2004 (All day)
The Hawaiian bobtail squid is a pipsqueak half the size of your thumb that jets around the coastal waters of Hawaii. Although it's tiny, it has a feature few can match: A flashlight shines out of its underside. In the 9 January issue of Science, researchers describe the unusual proteins the squid uses to focus its glow.
Squids and octopuses have an unrivaled ability to change their look. Many of them can change not only color and pattern, but how much light they reflect. Some even emit light, thanks to glowing bacteria that live in their skin. These talents help the cephalopods hide from predators and communicate with each other, but biologists know little about the underlying mechanisms.
Biologist Wendy Crookes of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and colleagues stumbled on a clue while looking at how the presence of symbiotic bacteria affects gene expression in bobtail squid. The team noticed that some proteins produced by the squid had a bizarre amino acid composition that included many copies of six normally rare amino acids, particularly tyrosine and methionine, and none at all of four common ones. The researchers soon realized that the proteins were found in the reflective tissues of the squid. A set of follow-up experiments revealed that the proteins, which the team dubbed reflectins, reflect light: A stack of just 10 reflectins acts as a perfect mirror.
"These animals have possibly the most extraordinary skin on Earth," says Roger Hanlon, a marine biologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This is the first time anyone has characterized a reflective protein in squids or octopuses, he says. Hanlon thinks the protein may help the squid reflect light downwards to match the intensity of light shining from above, effectively disguising their silhouette from predators below them.