Examining the ink of Aplysia californica

Margarita Kanaeva ‘20 | Major: Biological Sciences
Erika Stollberg ‘20 | Major: Biological Sciences

Mentor: Kimberly Hale, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences

Abstract: Aplysia californica, commonly known as sea hares, secrete a dark purple ink as a defense mechanism when threatened or injured. This highly pigmented purple ink has been shown to be distasteful and plays a role in keeping predators at bay. In addition to protecting the Aplysia californica from predators, there has been interest in the possible environmental role the ink may play in regulating the microorganisms in its ecosystem. More recently, scientists have begun to explore the potential use for this ink in biomedical applications, including antimicrobial activity. Kirby-Bauer tests (zone of inhibition method) performed in our laboratory have demonstrated a wide variation in the effectiveness of the ink from different Aplysia californica against Eschericia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Based on these observations, we wanted to further examine and compare the various inks in order to determine if we can identify an underlying reason for the difference in antimicrobial activity.