Adaptive Radiation in the Marine Bioluminescent Bacterium

As a graduate student at New Mexico State University, Will Soto studied the bioluminescent bacteria V. fisheri and its ability to adapt to new host squid. At the University of Minnesota, he has continued to study V. fisheri in Michael Travisano's lab. Will has incorporated this research interest into a research program for students in the Active Learning Laboratory (ALL) this summer. One of two research options in ALL, Will's program will give transfer students a chance to participate in authentic research on V. fisheri.

V. fisheri are bioluminescent bacteria that live in certain squids and fish, in what is a symbiotic relationship. The bacteria accumulates inside its host, emitting light that causes their host to glow. 

Description of Project

The research program will have three components:

  1. Use microbiological approaches to study V. fischeri’s ability to diversify into different colony morphologies
  2. Use DNA sequencing and computer analysis to identify genes involved in colony morphology
  3. Use scanning electron microscopy to examine the structure of wrinkled colonies

Goals of the Program

  1. Understanding the application of the scientific method
  2. Inductive and deductive reasoning, including analysis, evaluation, and presentation of data
  3. Learn how to access information databases to answer scientific questions
  4. Experience oral, written, and graphical communication in biology
  5. Preparation for entry into labor force and life after college with increased professionalism and a deeper understanding in scientific ethics

Learning more about V. fisheri's ability to diversify into different colony morphologies could help us better understand closely-related species of Vibrio that are known to cause human diseases, such as V. cholorae. (V. cholorae's ability to adapt has hampered efforts to make effective cholera vaccinations.)




It's sepiolid squid host




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