Bill to Make Hawaiian Bobtail Squid Hawaii’s Official State Microbe to be Heard Tomorrow

The Hawaiian Bobtail Squid – a two inch, glow in the dark creature – will have its moment in the spotlight tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, February 25. The Senate’s Committee on Technology and the Arts (TEC) will hear a bill designating vibrio fischeri as Hawaii’s official microbe.

image credit: guardian.co.uk

Image credit: guardian.co.uk

Vibrio fischeri is a bacteria which lives in a symbiotic relationship with the Hawaiian bobtail squid, giving the animal the power to produce bioluminescence, or light from a living organism. The squid is endemic to Hawaii and hunts at night on reef flats. However, moonlight casts a shadow onto the sea floor, which alerts predators to the squid’s presence. To counter this effect, the Hawaiian bobtail squid cultures vibrio fischeri in a special light-emitting organ, which allows it to become stealthy by projecting light that minimizes the dark shadow of its body.

Image credit: kahikai.org

Image credit: kahikai.org

The study of this chemical reaction has numerous medical and practical applications, such as testing for toxic compounds in water.

“We anticipate having a State Microbe will ignite interest in science for our kids. What could be more appropriate than a bacteria that creates a glowing blue squid that thrives just off our shores,” says Sen. Glenn Wakai, Chairman of the TEC Committee, “With 70% of our planet covered in water, it makes perfect sense to have Hawaii’s microbe tied to the ocean.”

Image credit: news.wisc.edu

Image credit: news.wisc.edu

What:   Hearing on SB 3124, designating a State Microbe

When: 1:15 p.m., Tuesday, February 25

Where: Capitol, room 414

[youtube=http://youtu.be/KCobcWsYOS8]

More information on the bill can be found by going to this link: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=3124&year=2014.

Oregon became the first state to have an official microbe.  Lawmakers there designated saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as “brewer’s yeast” as its state microbe due to its importance to Oregon’s beer and winemaking industries. Wisconsin has attempted to turn lactococcus lactis into its official microbe, in recognition of its role in creating cheese.

One Response

  1. “The squid is endemic to Hawaii and hunts at night on reef flats.” Yep, but the bill isn’t proposing a State squid! The bill actually proposes that Vibrio fischeri be Hawaii’s State Microbe. Unlike the squid, however, this microbe isn’t endemic to Hawaii; it occurs in oceans around the world, so it’s not particularly ‘Hawaiian’, either. The bill also overlooks criteria and other microbes presented in previous State Microbe bills. For example, a State Microbe for Hawaii should at least have been discovered in Hawaii. Other candidates were, and one was even discovered and named by a local high school student. The perfect way “…to ignite interest in science for our kids” might be to tell them that the State Microbe is the only Hawaii State Emblem discovered by a fellow student in a local school! By the way, Vibrio fischeri was discovered over 150 years ago, by a Dutch microbiologist.

    “With 70% of our planet covered in water, it makes perfect sense to have Hawaii’s microbe tied to the ocean.” That’s actually why it doesn’t make any sense. We may as well say, “More Spam is consumed per capita in Hawaii than in any other US state, so let’s have a State Microbe from Spam!” Hawaii is surrounded by one ocean, the largest on Earth, and that is connected to all the other oceans. That probably explains why Vibrio fischeri is found in all oceans. On the other hand, Hawaii has 132 islands, many of which host their own unique ecosystems, plants, animals and maybe microbes. Microbes discovered in Hawaii’s unique land ecosystems are certainly ‘Hawaii’s microbes’, and also the most appropriate candidates for State Microbe.

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