New Findings: World’s biggest bacterium that can be seen with the naked eye

• Scientists have discovered the world’s largest bacterium in a Caribbean mangrove swamp. It is considered to be the largest discovered bacterium in the world, it does not require any special equipment to be visible to the naked eye.

• When we think of the term “bacteria”, we probably see pictures of organisms that can only be seen using a microscope. But, the newly discovered bacteria are so large that they can be seen with the naked eye.

• These bacteria, on average, are one-third of an inch (0.9 centimeters) in size and it is around 5,000 times bigger than most bacteria.

• The name of the bacterium is Thiomargarita Magnifica, or “magnificent sulfur pearl” and the first sample of the bacteria is discovered by Olivier Gros, a co-author and biologist at the University of the French West Indies and Guiana.

World’s biggest bacterium
Thiomargarita Magnifica, or “magnificent sulfur pearl”

• Olivier Gros discovered the first example of the bacterium in 2009. The bacterium is found in the leaves of sunken mangroves in the islands of Guadeloupe in the South Caribbean Sea.

• Due to its large size, then (2009) it was not understood that it is a bacterium. Only later in the genetic analysis was the organism revealed as a single bacterial cell.

• Dr Volland said: ‘The bacteria contain three times more genes than most bacteria and hundreds of thousands of genome copies that are spread throughout the entire cell.’

• In terms of metabolism, it undergoes chemosynthesis, a process similar to photosynthesis in plants.

• The exact structure and how molecular processes occur and are regulated inside and outside this structure remains to be studied.

• This raises the question of how many of these giant bacteria there are – and reminds us that we should never underestimate bacteria.

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