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World's biggest bacterium found in Caribbean mangrove swamp

  • Published
    25th Jun, 2022

Scientists have discovered the world's largest bacterium in a Caribbean mangrove swamp.


About the bacteria:

  • The bacterium — named Thiomargarita Magnifica, or "magnificent sulfur pearl" — clinging to sunken mangrove leaves in the archipelago of Guadeloupe in 2009.
  • The bacterium is roughly the shape and size of an eyelash.
  • The bacteria appeared as long translucent centimeter-long strings on decaying leaf matter in the water.
  • Most bacteria are microscopic, but this one is so big it can be seen with the naked eye.
  • The bacterium also has a complex membrane organization and a predictable life cycle.

Different from other bacteria’s:

  • Bacteria are commonly thought to be “bags of enzymes,” where there is no nucleus or Golgi apparatus or any other organelles, and DNA simply floats freely through the cell.
  • However, T. magnifica not only contains DNA within a membrane, but also ribosomes—which create proteins—cohabitating with the genome.
  • The cell has a structure that's unusual for bacteria.
  • One key difference: It has a large central compartment, or vacuole, that allows some cell functions to happen in that controlled environment instead of throughout the cell.

Guadeloupe archipelago in the French Caribbean:

  • Guadeloupe, the French Caribbean tropical islands in the Lesser Antilles in the Eastern Caribbean is situated just north of Dominica and southeast of Puerto Rico.
  • Caribbean mangrove swamps are packed with organic matter, with microbes in the sediment degrading this matter and producing high concentrations of sulfur.
  • The sulfur-rich environment offers an energy source for bacteria like Thiomargarita magnifica.
  • The researchers named its DNA-bearing organelles "pepins" after a French word for small seeds inside fruits.
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